G20 leaders call for worldwide coordinated response to COVID-19 pandemic

G20 leaders reaffirmed their commitment to providing “equitable” access to COVID-19 “therapeutics and vaccines” for all, as the annual meeting came to a close on Sunday.

The coronavirus pandemic took centre stage in the talks. Leaders attended virtually for safety measures, though the event was officially hosted by Saudi Arabia.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and its unprecedented impact in terms of lives lost, livelihoods, and economies affected”, said a joint statement released at the end of the two-day event.

“We will continue to spare no effort to protect lives, provide support with a special focus on the most vulnerable, and put our economies back on a path to restoring growth, and protecting and creating jobs for all”.

EU calls for more funding and cooperation

EU Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen said she was “glad” that “G20 leaders agreed to make COVID-19 vaccines available and affordable for all, but stressed that “more funding was needed”, as she called on G20 Leaders to commit to funding 4.5 billion US dollars for the ACT-Accelerator “by the end of the year”.

EU Commission president Charles Michel warned that this pandemic may not be the last, and called for an “international Treaty on Pandemics” to help improve the response of the global community, adding however that the WHO remains the “cornerstone of global coordination against health emergencies.”

Speaking during the G20 conference, Russian president Vladimir Putin said his country “supports the key decision of this summit, the project directed at ensuring access to effective and safe (COVID) vaccines to all.

“Without a doubt”, he added, “immunisation drugs should be the property of all of humanity. Our country of Russia is ready to provide countries in need with vaccines developed by our scientists”.

Putin’s thoughts were echoed by the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, but he widened the subject, calling for a broader coordinated response to manage the pandemic.

“We need targeted investments aimed at the struggling healthcare systems worldwide while supporting environmental and social resilience and avoiding further economic disruption,” he explained, adding “It’s a daunting task, but Italy is ready to play its part”.

Virus still sweeping across the world

The virus shows no signs of abating as major cities in the US and Europe bring back lockdowns and curfews. The World Health Organization (WHO) says more cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the past four weeks than in the first six months of the pandemic.

A day before the summit, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that while $10 billion (€8.43 billion) has been invested in efforts to develop vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics, another $28 billion (€23.62 billion) is needed for mass manufacturing, procurement and delivery of new COVID-19 vaccines around the world.

He called on more G20 nations to join COVAX, an international initiative to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to countries worldwide.

The United States has declined to join under Donald Trump, who said COVAX was “influenced by the “corrupt WHO and China”.

There have been raised voices over Saudi Arabia hosting the conference given accusations over its human rights record, but leaders’ comments so far have shown the COVID-19 pandemic remains the overriding priority.