Address to the second global COVID-19 summit

Address by Minister of International Development, Anne Beathe Tvinnereim, at the second global (virtual) COVID-19 summit.

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Honorable colleagues and friends,

I would like to thank Belize, Germany, Indonesia, Senegal, and the United States for hosting this summit.

The pandemic is far from over.

Up to now, most discussions have focused on vaccinations. This remains a top priority.

Yet, access to testing and treatment is equally important. Unless COVID-19 cases are detected, they cannot be isolated. And effective treatment cannot be provided.

COVID-19 is likely to stay with us, also in the form of new variants. We are adapting existing health systems to encompass COVID-19. At the same time, we must give priority to those at risk, and to those with chronic illnesses.

Let me highlight two ways to ensure access to testing services, oral COVID-19 pills, and oxygen:

First, we must fully fund the ACT-Accelerator.

Only 3 percent of the funding for the therapeutics pillar has been provided for the second budget cycle. Only 3 percent. Generic pills may not arrive in low-income and middle-income countries until 2023.

Less than 1 percent of the funding needed for diagnostics has been secured. Testing rates are roughly a hundred times lower in low-income than in high-income countries. Testing rates have fallen in recent months.

Norway and South Africa urgently call upon countries to provide their fair share to ACT-A. The 700 million USD that Norway has allocated to ACT-A for 2020-2022, span across the four ACT-A pillars. It includes funding for therapeutics and testing.

My second point is this: Access to COVID-19 medicines must be viewed from a systems perspective.

The obstacles we face for COVID-19 were also seen two decades ago for HIV/AIDS. Thus, we should have learned something.

While COVID-19 has given rise to new collaborations, it has – once again – revealed barriers. Barriers to the sharing of knowledge, technology, production capacity, and delivery.

My point is: In the long run, challenges related to access to medicines for diseases – such as HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 – cannot be solved through disease-specific solutions. It is a systems problem.

We must share technology and know-how.

We must increase local and generic production. In this respect, I am pleased to see the licence agreements through the Medicines Patent Pool.

We must invest in research mechanisms such as CEPI. Norway will contribute more than 100 million USD to the coalition over the next five years.

To conclude: We are now facing multiple global challenges, beyond the pandemic, all at the same time. There is a war going on in Europe. Still, let us keep COVID-19 high on the international agenda. The pandemic can only be overcome by close global cooperation.  

Thank you.