Norway is supporting the urgent global response to the outbreak of coronavirus, COVID-19, and is providing NOK 10 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) for humanitarian efforts and NOK 36 million to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) for vaccine development. Norway is also working hard to encourage other countries to step up their support.
‘In situations like this, when there is an outbreak of a disease that has the potential to develop into an epidemic, the international community has a shared responsibility to ensure global preparedness and take concerted action. Through our support to WHO, we are helping to promote a coordinated and effective response to this global health emergency. And our funding to CEPI will be an important contribution to ensuring that vaccine development proceeds as quickly as possible. This is particularly important for low- and middle-income countries where public health preparedness and health systems are weaker. But all of this costs money. That is why I am now in contact with my colleagues in other countries to encourage them to increase their support,’ said Prime Minister Erna Solberg.
Global health security can only be achieved if all countries have adequate preparedness and response capacity, and it is only as effective as its weakest link. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa showed that the world was ill-prepared to respond to an outbreak of disease of epidemic potential. This was why, in 2017, Norway and eight other countries took the initiative to establish CEPI, a global partnership to develop vaccines against diseases that could become epidemics or pandemics. Shortly after the world became aware of the new coronavirus outbreak, CEPI, in cooperation with WHO, began work on the development of a vaccine. Norway has undertaken to provide NOK 1.6 billion to CEPI. Thanks to funding from Norway and various other countries, CEPI is now able to start developing vaccine candidates against this new strain of coronavirus, COVID-19. Norway is now providing extra funding for this work and has increased its annual contribution to CEPI to a total of NOK 278 million (USD 30 million).
‘Global health is a priority area of Norway’s development policy. We provide substantial funding for global health efforts, but even more importantly, we have taken on a leading political and technical role in the field. We were at the forefront of the initiative to establish CEPI. This partnership could provide vital protection for the most vulnerable groups in poor countries with weak health systems, and thus save lives,’ said Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein.
In January this year, WHO declared the new coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. The original outbreak of COVID-19 in China has now spread to 24 countries. The new coronavirus disease was first identified in Wuhan, China on 7 January 2020, and since then the number of registered cases has increased by the day. More than 45 000 cases and 1 114 deaths have been confirmed to date (12 February 2020).
‘Norway is seeking to support the global response to the new coronavirus outbreak in the best possible way. Our contribution to WHO will be particularly important in enhancing emergency prevention and preparedness in countries with weak health systems. Our support to CEPI is also an important contribution to global health preparedness,’ said Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie.
WHO is playing a vital role in leading and coordinating the global response. The funding provided by Norway to WHO’s Contingency Fund for Emergencies and to support efforts under WHO’s Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan for the new coronavirus, which was launched on 4 February, is an important contribution. WHO is cooperating closely with the Chinese authorities in responding to the current situation, while also helping countries with weak health systems to prepare and respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.