WHO-led coalition needs $31.3 bln to fight COVID-19

LONDON/GENEVA, June 26 (Reuters) - The World Health Organization-led coalition fighting the coronavirus needs $31.3 billion over the next 12 months to develop and roll out tests, treatments and vaccines, it said on Friday.

It said $3.4 billion had been contributed to date, leaving a funding gap of $27.9 billion, of which $13.7 billion was “urgently needed”.

The WHO initiative aims to scale up delivery of 500 million tests and 245 million courses of treatments to low- and middle-income countries by mid-2021, it said in a statement.

It also aims to scale up delivery of 2 billion vaccines doses, including 1 billion to be bought by low- and middle-income countries, by the end of 2021.

The WHO is working with a large coalition of drug-development, funding and distribution organisations under what it is calling the ACT-Accelerator Hub.

In an update on the ACT-Accelerator initiative, launched in April to speed up research and development for the new disease, the WHO and global health groups said the coronavirus pandemic is still threatening millions of lives and scores of economies.

“The investment required is significant, but it pales in significance when compared to the cost of COVID-19,” it said in a statement.

“The total cost of the ACT-Accelerator’s work is less than a tenth of what the IMF estimates the global economy is losing every month due to the pandemic.  468,000 thousand people have already lost their lives.” (Reporting by Kate Kelland, Stephanie Nebehay, Ludwig Burger and Matthias Blamont; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Giles Elgood)