DAVOS 2021: COVID-19 crisis won’t end until developing nations get vaccine


Life is unlikely to return to normal until the COVID-19 pandemic is stamped out globally, a senior Singaporean politician has said.

Tharman Shanmugaratnam, senior minister of Singapore, said the eradication of COVID-19 in individual nations through vaccination campaigns would not be enough to end the crisis.

No one is safe from the virus” until global herd immunity from COVID-19 is achieved, he said on a digital panel for The Davos Agenda conference on Monday.

“Globally, no economy, including the most advanced economies, are going to get back to normal until the large parts of the world we call developing… get the vaccine,” Shanmugaratnam said.

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Shanmugaratnam said economies would continue to be disrupted so long as COVID-19 is circulating anywhere in the world, due to the knock-on effects on global trade and travel. Shanmugaratnam said open borders were “how the blood flows through the economy” in places like Singapore.

“The key uncertainty that we face now is when are we going to achieve herd immunity internationally?” he said.

Oxfam said last month that 70 poorer nations, covering much of the African continent, would only be able to vaccinate around one in 10 of their populations. The group said richer nations representing 14% of the world’s population had bought up 53% of the supply of promising COVID-19 vaccines.

Data compiled by the University of Oxford and the Global Change Data Lab shows that vaccinations in developed ares such as North America and Europe have so far greatly outpaced efforts in emerging markets.

Developed nations have greatly outpaced developing ones when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine rollouts. Photo: OurWorldInData.org
Developed nations have greatly outpaced developing ones when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine rollouts. Photo: OurWorldInData.org
Shanmugaratnam said it was in “everyone’s interests” to help speed up the rollout of vaccines in the developing world, as these economies were likely to be the engines of global growth in the decades to come. He said the task posed a “huge challenge.”

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“To get herd immunity, you need something like 70% of the population at least,” he said. “Now with a more transmissible version of the virus, you need significantly more than that.

“We’re quite far away from people being able to talk about the end of this crisis.”

Shamugaratnam’s comments came on the first day of The Davos Agenda, a smaller, digital only version of the annual gathering of the world’s elite hosted by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

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