The discussants addressed the impact of the pandemic on women and poor countries and the need for investments in testing, therapeutics, and vaccines while ensuring an inclusive recovery and global cooperation to overcome the pandemic.
· Vaccine development and impact on economic recovery. Georgieva expected a vaccine by next year, although universal deployment will take time. Without a vaccine, the recovery would be slower and bumpier, and inequality would likely increase. Gates underscored the importance of taking care of everyone by focusing on who is struggling the most and who can help the fastest; ensuring the vaccine goes out first to healthcare workers globally and then to the most vulnerable populations in each country. Gates stressed the importance of global cooperation and highlighted the efforts made through the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.
· Women are disproportionately affected. The pandemic has impacted women disproportionally given their higher participation in the informal sector and healthcare; 70 percent of frontline healthcare workers are women. Gates shared experiences from the Ebola epidemy, highlighting the shadow pandemic issue for women and the impact on their health and schooling. To address these issues, she cited policies such as suspension of tuition fees to help families from deciding between keeping their son or daughter in school; ensuring women have clean and healthy birthing kits for home delivery and putting cash transfers directly in the hands of women.
· Macroeconomic policies. Georgieva stressed the need to support people and the economy through monetary policy and fiscal spending, even if debt levels will go up. In many advanced countries, interest rates are low or even negative and borrowing is cheap. For emerging and low-income economies, spending is also needed, but the high debt levels are more concerning. She noted that the Fund and the World Bank had lobbied the G20 to extend the provide debt suspension for poor countries and stressed the need for more grants and concessional financing to get out of this crisis. Gates stressed the importance of investing in infrastructure, in particular in human capital.
“Do not withdraw this support prematurely ... until we have a durable exit from the health crisis. We have to continue to support people and the economy.” Kristalina Georgieva
“If you take the first two billion doses of vaccine and they only get out to the high-income countries, you are going to get twice as much death.” Melinda Gates
“Women do more work than men: on an average, women do 2.7 hours every day more at home than men do.” Kristalina Georgieva
“If you put money in a woman’s hands it will get spent properly on health, education and jobs” Melinda Gates
Contributor: Dannah Al-Jarbou