San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday)

G20 sum­mit lead­ers urge united re­sponse to virus

- By Aya Batrawy Aya Batrawy is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

DUBAI, United Arab Emi­rates — The Group of 20 sum­mit opened on Satur­day with ap­peals by the world’s most pow­er­ful lead­ers to col­lec­tively chart a way for­ward as the coro­n­avirus pan­demic over­shad­ows this year’s gath­er­ing, trans­form­ing it from in­per­son meet­ings to a vir­tual gath­er­ing of speeches and dec­la­ra­tions.

In a sign of the times, the tra­di­tional “fam­ily photo” of lead­ers in the sum­mit was dig­i­tally de­signed and su­per­im­posed on a his­tor­i­cal site just out­side the Saudi cap­i­tal, Riyadh, which would have hosted the gath­er­ing this year.

The pan­demic, which has claimed more than 1.3 mil­lion lives world­wide, has of­fered the G20 an op­por­tu­nity to prove how such bod­ies can fa­cil­i­tate in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion in crises — but has also un­der­scored their short­com­ings.

“We have a duty to rise to the chal­lenge to­gether dur­ing this sum­mit and give a strong mes­sage of hope and re­as­sur­ance,” Saudi Ara­bia’s King Sal­man said in the sum­mit’s open­ing re­marks.

While G20 coun­tries have con­trib­uted bil­lions of dol­lars to­ward de­vel­op­ing a vaccine for the virus, they have also mostly fo­cused on se­cur­ing their own vaccine sup­plies. Coun­tries such as Bri­tain, the U.S., France and Ger­many — all G20 mem­ber states — have di­rectly ne­go­ti­ated deals with phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies to re­ceive bil­lions of doses, mean­ing that the vast ma­jor­ity of the world’s vaccine sup­ply next year is al­ready re­served.

A day be­fore the sum­mit, U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res said that while $10 bil­lion has been in­vested in ef­forts to de­velop vac­cines, di­ag­nos­tics and ther­a­peu­tics, another $28 bil­lion is needed for mass man­u­fac­tur­ing, pro­cure­ment and de­liv­ery of new COVID19 vac­cines around the world.

Guter­res called on more G20 na­tions to join COVAX, an in­ter­na­tional ini­tia­tive to dis­trib­ute COVID19 vac­cines to coun­tries world­wide. The United States has de­clined to join un­der Pres­i­dent Trump.

As part of the sum­mit, seven lead­ers re­leased video mes­sages on “Pan­demic Pre­pared­ness and Re­sponse.” France’s Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron warned of the chal­lenges in ob­tain­ing “uni­ver­sal ac­cess to health tech­nolo­gies against COVID19.” Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel called for strength­en­ing the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion and stressed the pan­demic can only be over­come if an af­ford­able vaccine is avail­able to all na­tions.

In a video state­ment re­leased ahead of the sum­mit, Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son ap­pealed to global lead­ers to har­ness the re­sources of the world’s wealth­i­est na­tions to end the COVID19 pan­demic and tackle cli­mate change.

Trump, mean­while, told his coun­ter­parts that any Amer­i­can who wants the vaccine will be able to get it, and sin­gled out Amer­i­can pro­duc­ers Pfizer Inc., whose vaccine has been de­vel­oped along with a Ger­man com­pany, and Moderna Inc., Bloomberg News re­ported, cit­ing of­fi­cials who asked not to be named dis­cussing the talks, which weren’t open to the press.

Trump praised Amer­i­can lead­er­ship, claim­ing credit for what he said was an ef­fi­cient fight against the virus and suc­cess in bol­ster­ing the na­tion’s econ­omy. But he said noth­ing about grant­ing ac­cess to Amer­i­can vac­cines by the rest of the world.

G20 heads of state last gath­ered vir­tu­ally for an emer­gency meet­ing in March as the coro­n­avirus was fast­spread­ing around the world. At the time, they vowed “to do what­ever it takes to over­come the pan­demic.”

G20 na­tions have since agreed to sus­pend debt pay­ments for the world’s poor­est coun­tries un­til mid2021 to al­low those na­tions to fo­cus their spend­ing on health care and stim­u­lus pro­grams. The U.N. sec­re­tary gen­eral, how­ever, has called on the G20 to ex­tend debt re­pay­ments through the end of 2021 and ex­pand the scope to mid­dlein­come coun­tries in need.

 ?? Fayez Nurel­dine / AFP / Getty Images ?? Re­porters in Riyadh watch a broad­cast of Saudi King Sal­man de­liv­er­ing open­ing re­marks at the Group of 20 sum­mit.
Fayez Nurel­dine / AFP / Getty Images Re­porters in Riyadh watch a broad­cast of Saudi King Sal­man de­liv­er­ing open­ing re­marks at the Group of 20 sum­mit.

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