South African President reiterates call for equal access to vaccines at BRICS Summit


JOHANESSBURG: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday reiterated his call for an equal access to COVID-19 vaccines, saying the coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on human life, livelihoods, economies and communities around the world.

Addressing the 13th BRICS summit presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi via video link, Ramaphosa said as the BRICS countries, “we must continue to safeguard people’s lives and livelihoods, support global economic recovery and enhance the resilience of all our public systems.”

“We must ensure equal access to COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics,” he said.

He said that the leaders of the BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — are meeting in unprecedented times.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on human life, livelihoods, economies and communities around the world, he said.

“As much as we have known sorrow and hardship, we have also known solidarity and cooperation,” Ramaphosa said as he lauded the cooperation of the BRICS partners in fighting the pandemic.

“Our collective response has demonstrated what can be achieved when we work together. All tracks of our BRICS cooperation have been orientated towards concrete responses to the pandemic.

“We each need to contribute our fair share to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator and support the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waiver at the WTO to ensure a rapid expansion of COVID-19 vaccine production across the world,” the President said.

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Ramaphosa and Prime Minister Modi had first proposed the temporary waiver on patents for COVID-19 vaccines’ waiver in May this year and rapidly got support from more than 60 countries.

Ramaphosa welcomed both the decisions by the Health Ministers of BRICS nations to start a virtual BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre and the foreign ministers’ joint statement on strengthening and reforming the multilateral system.

“The pandemic has reinforced our belief that representative multilateralism is key to a sustainable future for all,” he said.

Ramaphosa also urged members to pursue reform at the UN Security Council.

“We call on BRICS to be equally bold and determined in seeking reform of the United Nations Security Council, among other things to enable Africa to take its rightful place among the collective of nations in this crucial body,” he said.

Ramaphosa concluded his address with a plea for BRICS members to remain focused on the attainment of better health outcomes, while also pursuing the goals of quality education, decent work, action on climate change, peace and justice.

“We are now in the final decade towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

We must strengthen our cooperation, deepen our partnership and actively strive towards a world of better health, better opportunity and shared prosperity for all,” the president added.