Whether measured in lives lost, personal and public health or damage inflicted on global and local economies – the impact of COVID-19 has been devastating and is making urethink how we live our lives. The last few months have overstretched our public health systems and tested our individual and collective ability to cope with difficult situations. Relaxation measures introduced throughout Europe and in North Macedonia, including the opening of borders, are welcome and give us a breather, but also impose a strong responsibility to build on the valuable lessons from the past few months – individually and collectively. 

First, we need to remain vigilant and recognize that the threats posed to our lives and societies by COVID-19 will remain significant in the coming monthsRelaxation of some measures does not mean we can let down our guard, but rather that we must adjust the way we live and work – by being prudent, decisive and responsible, acting in solidarity with othersIts an absolute must to continue following guidance that allows our communities to minimize risks and proactively respond to the crisisin order not to put additional burden on the already stretched public health systems. The rising numbers of new infections – in North Macedonia and in many other countries – are a stark warning. Acting responsibly as a collective, starts with individuals’ actions, by keeping the recommended physical distance, wearing protective masks and frequently washing or disinfecting hands. 

Second, strengthening the health sector is among the top priorities for North Macedonia. The country must focus its efforts and invest decisively in health care to bolster its preparedness and response capacity People’s lives depend on this. But investing in health system goes beyond the current pandemic. It is one of the avenues to improve the quality of life in the country and a secure strategy to respond to similar shocks of the future. Building a robust information and performance management system for assessing vulnerability and risks, boosting health financing and enhancing primary health care are only some of the key mid-term priorities on a path towards stronger health system and universal health coverage in North Macedonia. 

Third, dealing with the widespread impact of COVID-19 is an opportunity to focus on building back better rather than rushing back to the normal as we have known it. The crisis has served as a stark reminder of systemic gaps and fragilities, and inequalities that persist in our societies – between sexes and those who are economically or socially marginalized. As the virus has spread, we have also seen unacceptable surge in rates of domestic violence and abuse, child neglect and greater discrimination in the society, locally and globally. It became clear  once again – that the coping and mitigating ability is very much determined and exacerbates by existing inequalities and that those left furthest behind are often hit the hardest.  

To fully fathom the complexity and severity of the COVID-19 impact will require years of research and analysis. Understanding and addressing its impact goes beyond counting those that were infected or lost their lives. Expressing compassion, showing empathy, and remembering those most affected, their families and friends is what makes us humans.  

But our duty goes beyond that and starts by recognizing that the better tomorrow is on us to define, build and sustainproviding an equal chance and using the capacity and contribution of every individual and all our communities, in North Macedonia and globally. Life must go on, bringing us joy and hope, but working towards recovery means that we need to stay alertresponsible and effectively focused on strengthening our community resilience. prioritiesEverything that North Macedonia has achieved since the independence, makes me confident that this beautiful country and warm people have the strength to overcome any crisisAs always, the UN family stands by you to assist and celebrate your successes.