Mr President, Excellencies, Colleagues,
1. Pandemics end, but the threat of pandemics is perennial, due to globalisation, urbanisation and climate change that have created ideal conditions for such pandemic “perfect storms”. We are now in the age of pandemics.
2. How has the global community done during COVID-19? I believe the jury is divided.
3. We witnessed export controls and nationalistic policies, which constrain vaccine production capacity, access and availability. These actions contributed to vaccine inequity, but there were many positive aspects too. Genome sequencing data of various virus strains was widely shared globally, and scientists and clinicians collaborated to develop vaccines in record time. Multilateralism did not entirely fail us.
4. In this vein, I am speaking as one of the smallest and most urbanised countries in the world. We must strengthen our multilateral pandemic preparedness efforts in three key areas.
5. First, a global surveillance system to detect emerging infectious diseases is a key foundation of pandemic response. Without a strong global surveillance system, new variants would not have been as quickly identified and vaccines would not have been as effective or made available so quickly.
6. It is therefore imperative that all countries contribute surveillance data. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of SARS-COV-2 sequences submitted to GISAID has declined by 90 percent worldwide from the peak, and the number of countries submitting data has also fallen. More can be done to strengthen and improve this, and I call upon global initiatives including The Pandemic Fund to prioritise this.
7. Second, scientists and clinicians around the world need to collaborate to develop vaccines. Indeed, the success of the 100-Day Mission is contingent on a strong global network of research institutions, vaccine manufacturers and regulators.
8. Third, we need to uphold free and open trade where it comes to vaccine production and distribution. Today, a list of sophisticated products, from cars to smart phones and pharmaceuticals, is possible because of an interdependent global production system.
9. So we need a strong international set of disciplines to ensure free and open trade of raw supplies and medical countermeasures. This is especially important to small economies and markets like Singapore.