UN Security Council demands COVID-19 cease-fire

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The United Nations logo is seen inside the United Nations on February 25, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Friday demanding that all warring parties immediately institute a “sustained humanitarian pause” to enable the unhindered delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and the vaccination of millions of people in conflict areas.

The British-drafted resolution, co-sponsored by 112 countries, reiterated the council’s demand last July 1 for “a general and immediate cessation of hostilities” in major conflicts on the Security Council agenda from Syria and Yemen to Central African Republic, Mali and Sudan and Somalia.

It expressed concern that an appeal for cease-fires in all conflicts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, which was first made by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on March 23, 2020, “was not fully heeded.”

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward, the current council president, announced the result of the email vote because the council has been meeting virtually, saying the resolution “will help bring vaccines to 160 million people in conflict areas or displaced by conflict.”

This comes as the U.N. health agency chief calls on member states of the World Trade Organization to authorize the lifting of intellectual property protections on COVID-19 vaccines for wider use.

World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says, “We can’t beat COVID without vaccine equity. The sharing problem can be addressed effectively if production is increased — and to increase production, there are trade barriers or other barriers: That has to be addressed.”

South Africa and India in October presented a proposal to temporarily waive intellectual property protections on vaccines. Rich countries with big pharmaceutical industries including Britain, Switzerland and the United States have resisted or raised questions about the proposal, which would need consensus under WTO rules.

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