Coronavirus treatments must be accessible for all

Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga says every country in the world should have access to diagnostic tools, medicine and – once available – a vaccine to counter the coronavirus. We also want that equal freedom in Bangladesh.

by Anwar A. Khan

I have tried to gather some accumulation of knowledge through my lense poring on Switzerland’s Corona-virus treatments.

Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation, is a country situated in the confluence of Western, Central, and Southern Europe. It is a landlocked country bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. Its total area is 41,285 km2 (15,940 sq mi), and land area is 39,997 km2 (15,443 sq mi). The Swiss population is approximately 8.5 million and Zürich, Geneva and Basel where multiple international organisations are domiciled, such as, FIFA, the UN's second-largest Office, and the Bank for International Settlements and where the main international airports of Switzerland are.

Swiss President Sommaruga
Charity group Oxfam warns that a recession caused by Covid-19 could push an extra half a billion people into poverty - 8 percent of the world's population.

Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga says every country in the world should have access to diagnostic tools, medicine and – once available – a vaccine to counter the coronavirus. We also want that equal freedom in Bangladesh.

Sommaruga outlined Switzerland’s position latterly during a virtual donor conference organised by the European Union.

In her video address, the Swiss leader stated that solidarity must go beyond addressing the health needs generated by the Covid-19 crisis. Keystone-SDA news agency quoted her as saying that "it is not enough to save part of humanity from the pandemic and then let it die of hunger and poverty."

Switzerland, she noted, has already allocated CHF400 million (US$415 million) to support international efforts to tackle Covid-19.

Another CHF18 million have been granted to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Oslo-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to accelerate the search for medicines.

Switzerland will decide on additional funding in the coming weeks. Separately, about thirty humanitarian associations urged the Swiss government to boost efforts to combat the pandemic and its socio-economic consequences, especially in the poorest countries.

They called on Bern to allocated 0.7% of gross domestic product (GDP) to development aid, instead of the current 0.5%. Their populations need to tackle their governments! That's how Switzerland became a democracy! In summer 1867, cholera spread through Zurich. By the time it had been stamped out, the canton was on the path to direct democracy! Now just imagine how "beneficial aid" would have been and the impact...

Those undemocratic systems would have stayed and the populations servitude continued. Keep your feel-good charity for home, where your intervention is countered by votes and controls! Stop interfering in other countries! It holds off what needs to change and holds people down. (All so you can clap yourself on the back) Just one of many examples - The plague freed Europe!

Not one CHF will ever reach the ones that need. It will all be syphoned away by the incapable and i-humane ANC with their racist communist policies. Swiss people say they are not even allowed to hand out food parcels privately, because the government wants to control every step of the way. There are hundreds of proven complaints that food is stolen by municipalities to give it to their own families or people close to the ANC and NOT to the people in need, absolutely despicable!

It is not enough to save part of humanity from the pandemic and then let it die of hunger and poverty." Charity starts at home! You’ve already donated 418 million CHF. Focus on the struggles your own citizens are experiencing as a result of the pandemic. You can’t save everyone from themselves. And Switzerland is too small to financially champion for the entire third world.

Running out of rice? Low on loo roll? In fact, Switzerland has enough to last for months, but stockists are putting in serious overtime to meet the demand.

Like their peers in other parts of the world, shoppers in Switzerland began panic-buying in response to the threat of coronavirus. Images of empty shelves made the rounds on social media, with popular items selling out more quickly than the shops could replenish them – replenish being the key word.

“There is no reason to panic over food,” the government’s delegate for national economic supply, Werner Meier, told journalists last week. The Swiss Retail Federation took out a full-page newspaper ad assuring the public that there was no shortage of food, drinks, pet supplies or other necessities. It called on shoppers to be sensible, “Those who buy more than necessary may be leaving others empty-handed and our staff overworked at a time that is already very challenging.”

So how are workers in retail coping with the extra demands of people who are now at home for every meal – some of them wary of extra trips to the grocery store or worried about self-quarantine? At its main distribution warehouse, major supermarket chain Migros has added five extra shifts per week and is moving 10,000 pallets of wares on its busiest days; 5,500 would be the norm.

“The customers were practically unpacking the trucks for us. I’ve never experienced anything like it,” logistics manager Thomas Gasser told the weekly Migros customer magazine. “We have enough food – that wasn’t the problem.”

To compensate for the increase in demand, the central warehouse has been sending the stores at least a third more wares than they actually order to ward-off bare shelves. Pasta, for example, needs to be restocked two to four times as often as usual.

Retailers aren’t the only ones with ample supplies. Switzerland maintains emergency stockpiles of staples like flour, rice, sugar and oil. According to the Economic Supply Act, the nation must have enough to last for three to six months in the event of a crisis.

Switzerland produces about 60% of the food it needs to feed its population of 8.5 million. The rest is imported – for example, Italy and Spain are key partners for fruits and vegetables. The supply chain here is still intact, according to Marcel Jampen of Swisscofel, the association for the Swiss fruit, vegetable and potato trade.

“There are in some cases too few trucks or longer waiting times to cross the Swiss border. And there are some shortages in terms of harvest workers,” said Jampen, who is the head of Swisscofel’s international fruit and vegetable department.

“Despite the coronavirus crisis, domestic production and the import of everyday goods are secured,” states the Federal Office for National Economic Supply on its website. It points out that thanks to the current reduction of imports from Asia, there’s more logistical capacity at European ports and for the onward delivery to Switzerland.

“Cross-border train traffic is currently operating without any issue. For road traffic, there are lines at some border crossings,” notes the office.

To make it easier for retailers to cope with the increased demand for essential goods, the supply office and the Federal Roads Office have temporarily relaxed the regulations on Sunday and night-time trucking and unloading. But some workers in the industry don’t feel so relaxed.

“I get an uneasy feeling when drivers from Italy pick up or drop-off goods. There are a lot of coronavirus cases there. I always keep a distance,” said Ali Cekcu, a forklift operator working for Migros.

“So far there are no known cases of the new coronavirus being transmitted via foodstuffs,” states the Federal Office of Public Health on its website. “If you want to be quite sure, wash and heat foods properly.”

Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations says, “The upheaval caused by the coronavirus, Covid-19, is all around us. And I know many are anxious, worried and confused. That’s absolutely natural.”

We are facing a health threat unlike any other in our lifetimes. Meanwhile, the virus is spreading, the danger is growing, and our health systems, economies and day-to-day lives are being severely tested.

The most vulnerable are the most affected, particularly our elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions, those without access to reliable health care, and those in poverty or living on the edge.

On the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, the Covid-19 pandemic poses a crucial moment for the international system.

The social and economic fallout from the combination of the pandemic and slowing economies will affect most of us for some more months or years. But the spread of the virus will peak. I hope our economies in Bangladesh and elsewhere across the world will recover, but the time is a great factor here!

Until then, we must act together to slow the spread of the virus and look after each other. This is a time for prudence, not panic. Science, not stigma. Facts, not fear.

Even though the situation has been classified as a pandemic, it is one we can control. We can slow down transmissions, prevent infections and save lives, but that will take unprecedented personal, national and international action.

Declare War On Virus

Covid-19 is our common enemy. We must declare war on this virus. That means countries have a responsibility to gear up, step up and scale up.

How? By implementing effective containment strategies; by activating and enhancing emergency response systems; by dramatically increasing testing capacity and care for patients; by readying hospitals, ensuring they have the space, supplies and needed personnel; and by developing life-saving medical interventions.

All of us have a responsibility too, to follow medical advice and take simple, practical steps recommended by health authorities.


In addition to being a public health crisis, the virus is infecting the global economy.

The World Health Organization (WHO), which has its headquarters in Geneva, has a primary role of directing and coordinating international health within the UN system.

WHO is continuously monitoring and responding to the outbreak! It provides daily global updates on COVID-19, how it spreads and how it is affecting people worldwide. It has also sent expert teams to help countries respond to the crisis. In Bangladesh and in many other countries, their endeavours are not seeable! And that is very sad!!

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has called on countries to take a comprehensive approach to fighting the pandemic and to isolate, test and trace as many cases as possible.

Financial markets have been hard hit by the uncertainty. Global supply chains have been disrupted. Investment and consumer demand have plunged with a real and rising risk of a global recession.

UN economists estimate that the virus could cost the global economy at least US$1 trillion this year and perhaps far more.

No country can do it alone. More than ever, governments must cooperate to revitalise economies, expand public investment, boost trade, and ensure targeted support for the people and communities most affected by the disease or more vulnerable to the negative economic impacts – including women who often shoulder a disproportionate burden of care work.

A pandemic drive home the essential interconnectedness of our human family. Preventing the further spread of Covid-19 is a shared responsibility for us all.

The UN – including the World Health Organization (WHO) - is fully mobilized as it is internationally reported. As part of our human family, we are working 24/7 with governments, providing international guidance, helping the world take on this threat, but the scepticism of their avouchment prevails everywhere all over the world.

The UN and WHO say we are in this together and we will get through this, together. "This is my family. I found it, all on my own. It's little, and broken, but still good. Yeah, still good."

“The law, must be honest, just, reasonable, and according to the ways of the people. It must meet their needs, and speak plainly so that all men may know and understand what the law is. It is not to be made in any man's favour, but for the needs of all them who live in the lands across the world. No man shall judge (condemn) the law which the King has given and the country chosen; neither shall he (the King) take it back without the will of the people."

A statesman is a politician who places himself at the service of the nation. A politician is a statesman who places the nation at his service. We expect the same service from politicians in Bangladesh.

"There are all kinds of silences and each of them means a different thing. There is the silence that comes with morning in a forest, and this is different from the silence of a sleeping city. There is silence after a rainstorm, and before a rainstorm, and these are not the same. There is the silence of emptiness, the silence of fear, the silence of doubt.

There is a certain silence that can emanate from a lifeless object as from a chair lately used, or from a piano with old dust upon its keys, or from anything that has answered to the need of a man, for pleasure or for work. This kind of silence can speak. Its voice may be melancholy, but it is not always so; for the chair may have been left by a laughing child or the last notes of the piano may have been raucous and gay. Whatever the mood or the circumstance, the essence of its quality may linger in the silence that follows. It is a soundless echo.

Bangladesh also wants Covid-19 treatments to be accessible for all people all over the world. An international virus needs an international response. So, we will come through this together!

-The End –

The writer is an independent political observer based in Dhaka, Bangladesh who writes on politics, political and human-centred figures, current and international affairs.

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