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The IMF on Friday proposed a $ 50 billion plan to end the Covid-19 pandemic, aimed at expanding vaccination campaigns around the world, while vaccine companies pledged to deliver billions of doses to the poorest countries by the end of next year.
The promises were made as Spain announced it would open its border to all vaccinated travelers next month, offering hope that the European tourist season could bounce back after suffering blows last year.
But elsewhere in Latin America, the coronavirus continued to wreak havoc as the continent’s death toll climbed into the grim million.
And the World Health Organization (WHO) has said the official death toll from the pandemic could be two to three times higher than official statistics suggest.
In Washington, the International Monetary Fund announced a $ 50 billion recovery plan to end the pandemic, which aims to vaccinate at least 60% of the world’s population by the end of 2022.
“Our proposal sets targets, assesses financing needs and presents pragmatic action,” IMF Director Kristalina Georgieva told the G20 World Health Summit in Rome.
The summit also saw the executives of three major Covid vaccine makers, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, pledge around 3.5 billion doses of the vaccine at cost or at a discount to middle and low-income countries this year and next year.
Pfizer will deliver two billion doses, Moderna up to 995 million doses and Johnson & Johnson up to 500 million doses, representatives from the three pharmaceutical companies said.
– ‘Feeling of freedom’ –
Vaccines offer countries hope that they can finally emerge from the pandemic that has ravaged the global economy and killed more than 3.4 million people since its onset at the end of 2019.
In Europe, the hard-hit tourism sector seemed on track to begin a cautious recovery as Spain announced it would open its borders to all vaccinated travelers next month.
“From June 7, all vaccinated people and their families will be welcome in our country, Spain, regardless of their country of origin,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said at an international tourism fair to Madrid.
He also announced that British travelers would be allowed to visit the holiday tourism hotspot from next week.
Germany saw its own return to normal on Friday with the opening of outdoor gardens, terraces and swimming pools in parts of the country for the first time in months.
It was a welcome change for Berliner Sonja Gellfart, who was already in the Sommerbad am Insulaner’s outdoor pool at 7:30 am.
“It’s the feeling of freedom because you can come in here and be outside, and without a mask,” she told AFP as other swimmers passed by.
– Higher total number of deaths –
But as European nations sought to put the pain of the pandemic behind them, the World Health Organization warned that the devastation of Covid-19 could be worse than feared.
In a new report on global health statistics, the United Nations agency said many more people have died than would have been the case without the pandemic, either from Covid or because they could not get treatment for other illnesses.
“The total number of deaths is at least two to three times higher than officially reported,” Samira Asma, WHO deputy director general for data, told reporters.
Latin America alone is expected to experience one million coronavirus-related deaths in the coming days, as many countries in the region struggle to get enough vaccines.
Brazil has the highest death rate on the continent at 450,000, a figure second in the world only after the United States.
The Senate officially launched an investigation last month into why the virus has exploded so horribly in the country.
The investigation focused particularly on the unorthodox decisions of far-right populist President Jair Bolsonaro regarding the epidemic, including opposition to housekeeping measures and masks.
– Honor health workers –
But while the situation in Latin America remains dire, the outlook looks more optimistic in Europe, where stock markets rose on Friday on growing evidence of an economic recovery as restrictions are gradually lifted.
“European stock markets are moving broadly higher, extending the strong gains from the previous session as optimism surrounding the economic outlook improves,” said analyst Sophie Griffiths of trading firm OANDA.
In Britain, retail sales jumped 9.2% in April as non-essential stores reopened, official data showed.
The demand for clothing soared almost 70% as consumers spent their money on new outfits.
President Emmanuel Macron has said that a so-called “death in the service of the republic” statute would be created to honor officials who lose their lives “in exceptional circumstances”.
© 2021 AFP