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The G20 summit opens when leaders push for a unified response to the virus

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – The Group of 20 summit, which opened on Saturday with calls from the world’s most powerful leaders to collectively chart a way forward as the coronavirus pandemic overshadows this year’s gathering, turning it from face-to-face meetings into a virtual one. collection of speeches and declarations.

As a sign of the times, the traditional “family photo” of the leaders of the meeting was digitally designed and superimposed on a historic site near the Saudi capital Riyadh, which would host the fair. The Kingdom is chairing the G20 this year.

The pandemic, which claimed more than 1

.37 million lives worldwide, has enabled the G20 to to demonstrate how such bodies can facilitate international cooperation in crises – but also highlighted their shortcomings.

“We have a duty to tackle the challenge during this summit and to send a strong message of hope and reassurance,” King Salman of Saudi Arabia said in his opening remarks.

While the G20 countries have contributed billions of dollars to the development of a vaccine for the virus, they have also focused mainly on providing their own vaccine. delivery. Countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, France and Germany – all G20 member states – have negotiated deals directly with pharmaceutical companies to receive billions of doses, which means that most of the world’s supply of vaccines next year is already maintained.

A day before the summit, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that while $ 10 billion had been invested in vaccine development, diagnosis and therapy, another $ 28 billion was needed for mass production, delivery and delivery of new COVID-19 vaccines. around the world.

Guterres called on more G20 countries to join COVAX, an international initiative to distribute COVID-19 vaccines around the world. The United States refused to join Trump.

The pandemic has had a far-reaching economic impact on developing countries and has plunged millions into extreme poverty. It also torments the world’s richest countries, with nine G20 countries ranking the highest in the world for most COVID-19 reported cases. The United States tops the list, followed by India, Brazil, France, Russia, Spain, the United Kingdom, Argentina and Italy, according to a census by Johns Hopkins University.

Three G20 leaders attending the summit have been infected with the coronavirus this year: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and US President Donald Trump.

The virus shows no signs of fading, as major cities in the United States and Europe return blockades and evening hours. The World Health Organization says more cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the last four weeks than in the first six months of the pandemic.

The International Labor Organization says the equivalent of 225 million full-time jobs were lost in the G20 alone in the third quarter of 2020. G20 member countries account for about 85% of world economic output and three-quarters of international trade.

As part of the summit, seven leaders released video messages on “Pandemic preparedness and response.” French President Emmanuel Macron has warned of the challenges of gaining “universal access to health technology against COVID-19”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for the strengthening of the World Health Organization and stressed that the pandemic can only be overcome if an affordable vaccine is available to all countries.

In a video statement issued ahead of the summit, Johnson called on global leaders to use the resources of the world’s richest nations to end the COVID-19 pandemic and tackle climate change.

“Our destinies are in the hands of the other,” said Johnson, who plans to attend two virtual events at the summit as he isolates himself at home in London after coming in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

Bolsonaro, who spent months downplaying the severity of the virus as deaths soared in Brazil, stressed in a video message that world leaders “must take care of both people’s health and the economy.”

President Trump, meanwhile, is among other G20 leaders expected to attend the closed-door virtual sessions on Saturday and Sunday. Leaders do not appear to have dropped out of the summit, despite calls from human rights groups, lawmakers and lawmakers to boycott the meeting in protest of Saudi Arabia’s reputation for human rights and the war in Yemen.

The G20 heads of state last met for an emergency meeting in March as the coronavirus spread rapidly around the world. At the time, they vowed “to do whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic.”

Since then, the G20 countries have agreed to suspend debt payments to the world’s poorest countries until mid-2021 to allow those countries to focus their spending on health care and incentive programs. However, the UN Secretary-General called on the G20 to extend debt repayment until the end of 2021 and to expand the coverage of middle-income countries in need.

“I am confident that the Riyadh summit will lead to significant and decisive results and will lead to the adoption of economic and social policies that will restore hope and reassurance to the people of the world,” said King Salman.


Associated Press writers Danika Kirka in London and Tia Goldenberg in Jerusalem contributed to the report.

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