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G20 leaders vow to help poorest countries in the post-Covid world

Discuss efforts to ensure fair distribution of a coronavirus vaccine globally

G20 summit | Coronavirus Vaccine

Reuters  |  Beijing/Dubai/Washington 

File photo of an airport
The Covid-19 pandemic, which has thrown the global economy into a deep recession this year, and efforts needed to underpin an economic rebound in 2021, were at the top of the agenda

Leaders of the 20 biggest economies on Saturday vowed to ensure a fair distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, drugs and tests around the world and do what was needed to support poorer countries struggling to recover from the pandemic.

“We will spare no effort to ensure their affordable and equitable access for all people, consistent with members commitments to incentivise innovation,” the leaders said in a draft G20 communique seen by Reuters. “We recognise the role of extensive immunisation as a global public good.” The twin crises of the pandemic and an uneven, uncertain global recovery dominated the first day of a two-day summit under the chairmanship of Saudi Arabia, which hands off the rotating presidency of the G20 to Italy next month.

The Covid-19 pandemic, which has thrown the global economy into a deep recession this year, and efforts needed to underpin an economic rebound in 2021, were at the top of the agenda.

“We need to avoid at all costs a scenario of a two-speed world where only the richer can protect themselves against the virus and restart normal lives,” French President Emmanuel Macron told the summit.

To do that, the European Union urged G20 leaders quickly to put more money into a global project for vaccines, tests and therapeutics - called Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator — and its COVAX facility to distribute vaccines. Especially vulnerable are poor and highly indebted countries, which are “on the precipice of financial ruin and escalating poverty, hunger and untold suffering”, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday. Germany was contributing more than 500 million euros to the effort, Chancellor Angela Merkel told the G20. Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to provide Russia's Sputnik V to other countries. China, where the pandemic originated a year ago, also offered to cooperate on vaccines. "China is willing to strengthen cooperation with other countries in the research and development, production, and distribution of vaccines," President Xi Jinping told the US President Donald Trump made no mention of any pledge to support the vaccine distribution effort.


Climate change in focus

Addressing the Leaders' Side Event on Safeguarding the Planet of the G-20 Riyadh Summit via video link, Xi said, "G-20 should continue to take the lead in tackling climate change".

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga also spoke on this issue, saying on Sunday that his country will lead efforts to combat climate change. Suga has already said that Japan will aim for net-zero emissions by 2050. President Trump defended his decision to withdraw from the Paris accord, saying, “I withdrew the US from the unfair and one-sided Paris accord, a very unfair act for the United was not designed to save the environment. It was designed to kill the American economy.”

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First Published: Mon, November 23 2020. 01:32 IST