New York, October 9: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday that the COVID-19 pandemic has made the need for universal health coverage more urgent than ever.

"A year ago, I warned that half the world's people were not able to access affordable, high-quality health care. Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that our health systems are inadequate," he told a ministerial meeting held as one-year commemoration of a UN high-level meeting on universal health coverage.

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"Weak health systems and unequal access to health care are major reasons why COVID-19 has killed 1 million people and infected more than 30 million around the world. Under-investment in health is having a devastating impact on societies and economies, undermining progress on all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)."

COVID-19 has made the need for universal health coverage, outlined in the strong Political Declaration adopted at last year's high-level meeting, more urgent than ever, he said in a video message.

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Universal health coverage is not only essential to end the pandemic. It will also drive progress across all health-related SDGs, while strengthening the primary health systems that are fundamental to tackling non-communicable diseases. And it is the only way to prepare for future health crises, he said.

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