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Group of 20 leaders including China and the U.S. called for greater global cooperation to defeat the coronavirus pandemic and prevent future outbreaks, seeking to turn the page on damaging tensions over how to tackle the disease.
China pledged an additional US$3 billion in aid over the next three years to help developing countries recover, while Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany will boost its contribution to Covax, the international vaccine initiative, to more than 1 billion euros (US$1.2 billion).
Vice President Kamala Harris said the U.S. will continue to donate excess vaccine doses to countries in need. France will share at least 30 million doses by the end of the year and contribute 500 million euros to the G-20’s Act-A initiative.
“This is a very clear ‘no’ to health nationalism,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters after the virtually-held Global Health Summit on Friday. “Supply chains have to be open -- so a clear ‘no’ to export bans, a clear no’ to bottlenecks.”
Part of the backdrop of the meeting involved the World Health Organization, which became a focus of political tension after China reported the first cases on Dec. 31, 2019.
“It did become clear that, despite considerable preparations, the World Health Organization and the world as a whole weren’t sufficiently prepared to react to a pandemic,” Merkel said.
G-20 leaders met to sign off on the Declaration of Rome, a set of guiding principles ranging from ensuring fair distribution of vaccines to ramping up production and possibly using compulsory licenses. Several participants suggested the world may need a document that’s more binding, said Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, whose country holds the G-20 presidency.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of international cooperation to address the current and any future health crisis,” he said earlier Friday. Italy wil increase its international aid by at least 300 million euros, he said.
Pfizer Inc. Chief Executive Albert Bourla told the summit that “global solutions” and “equitable access” to treatments are vital. The company said it will deliver 1 billion vaccine doses to poorer countries in 2022, on top of its 1 billion target for this year.
‘Solidarity and Cooperation’
The push for more partnership in tackling health emergencies follows cracks in the multilateral approach, with countries divided over measures to contain COVID-19, distribute medical supplies and handle vaccine patents.
“G-20 members need to adopt responsible macroeconomic policies to keep the global and industrial supply chains safe and smooth and give continued support to developing countries,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said. “We must stick together and promote solidarity and cooperation.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that global health cannot be on the periphery of the work we do as an international community,” Harris told the meeting. “It must be at the center of our work.”
Von der Leyen said the EU aims to donate at least 100 million doses to low and middle-income countries by the end of 2021. The EU also plans to help Africa build up vaccine production capacity over the next two decades, Merkel said.
Keeping supply chains open in a health emergency and preventing intellectual property rights from hampering production in poorer countries was a focus for some leaders.
“There must be no taboos, no ideology on intellectual property rights,” French President Emmanuel Macron said. “We are not allowed to stock vaccines in certain countries while they are missing in others.”