World leaders stressed the importance of having a comprehensive and international response to the coronavirus as the pandemic forced them to conduct this year’s Group of 20 (G-20) summit virtually.
Leaders who spoke during the online confab underscored the importance of working together to combat a historic pandemic that has put virtually every country at risk, killing more than 1.37 million people and infecting nearly 58 million.
"This has been an extraordinary year. The COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented shock that affected the entire world within a short period of time, causing global economic and social losses. Our peoples and economies are still suffering from this shock," King Salman of Saudi Arabia, who hosted the conference, said in his opening remarks. "However, we will do our best to overcome this crisis through international cooperation."
"We have a duty to rise to the challenge together during this summit and give a strong message of hope and reassurance," he added.
The timing of this year’s conference coincides with an international rise in cases, exacerbating a pandemic that beyond its human toll has also wreaked havoc on some of the globe’s largest economies. The International Labor Organization estimates roughly 225 million full-time jobs were lost in G-20 countries just during 2020’s third quarter.
The virus has shown no signs of letting up, with the spike sparking leaders in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere to reimpose restrictions to try to blunt the spread of the highly infectious virus. The speed with which the virus has spread in recent weeks has alarmed public health experts, who note that the current crisis could be exacerbated during the winter months when social events are moved to indoor settings, where the virus can spread more easily spread.
The World Health Organization reported that more cases of COVID-19 have been tallied in roughly the past month than in the first six months of the outbreak.
The attendance of the G-20 put into stark relief how no person is safe from the virus. Three G-20 leaders — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and President TrumpDonald TrumpCheney says a lot of GOP lawmakers have privately encouraged her fight against Trump Republicans criticizing Afghan refugees face risks DeVos says 'principles have been overtaken by personalities' in GOP MORE — have all tested positive for COVID-19 and have since recovered.
“As I’ve said before, it’s only by joining forces and working together that we will defeat coronavirus and build back better from this crisis. Our fates are in each other's hands,” said Johnson.
French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronEU 'denounces' Russian malicious cyber activity aimed at member states French diplomat says 'time and actions' needed to restore ties with US France to bill Australia over canceled submarine deal MORE said the G-20 faces a “historical responsibility that requires us to move towards uniting international efforts to ensure an effective international response to this crisis,” noting that with studies indicating a vaccine could be available in the coming months, the world must ensure equal distribution of a shot.
“Will we be prepared when the first vaccine is launched on the market that will be available to everyone and avoid a scenario where only the rich will have access to it and be able to protect themselves and return to their normal life? Will our strategy be to distribute the first doses of the vaccine to critical cases and those in need of health care, or will it be according to the purchasing power of the countries?” he asked.
Saturday’s conference is the second time the G-20 has met this year to address the coronavirus, with the last meeting occuring in March to address the virus’s initial outbreak. While that conference included commitments to share information and material to better understand the virus, leaders said this conference must include commitments to policies to actively combat COVID-19.
“I am confident that the Riyadh summit will deliver significant and decisive results and will lead to adopting economic and social policies that will restore hope and reassurance to the people of the world,” Salman said.