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A year into COVID-19, U.N. declares a day of 'epidemic preparedness'

FILE PHOTO: The United Nations logo is seen on a window in an empty hallway at United Nations headquarters in New York, U.S., September 21, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A year into a global battle against the coronavirus, the United Nations General Assembly on Monday declared Dec. 27 will be the “International Day of Epidemic Preparedness” in a bid to ensure lessons are learned for any future health crises.

The COVID-19 virus emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and spread globally, so far infecting more than 66 million people and killing some 1.5 million. The World Health Organization (WHO) called it a pandemic in March, a declaration that the United States and others said came too late.

The 193-member General Assembly adopted a resolution by consensus on Monday that recognizes the need “to raise the level of preparedness in order to have the earliest and most adequate response to any epidemic that may arise.”

“Given that the General Assembly has previously declared international days devoted to chess, yoga and toilets it only seems fair that epidemics should have their day too,” said International Crisis Group U.N. director Richard Gowan.

He described the symbolic move as an attempt by the General Assembly to appear relevant as “a lot of smaller and poorer states worry that they won’t have any part in real decisions about the coronavirus vaccine or recovery.”

The U.N. resolution stresses the importance of international cooperation and multilateralism.

“The pandemic caught us off guard, but it also has served as a wake-up call for improving our preparedness,” Vietnam’s U.N. Ambassador Dang Dinh Quy said as he introduced the resolution. “We believe that observing an International Day on Epidemic Preparedness will be a prominent way to achieve this goal.”