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Coronavirus crisis dominates G20 summit

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – The summit of the Group of the 20 largest economies in the world began Saturday with various calls from the world’s most powerful rulers to draw up a joint strategy to move forward as the coronavirus pandemic overshadowed their meeting this year after turning it from personal encounters into a virtual congregation of speeches and statements.

The pandemic that has claimed more than 1.37 million lives in the world offers the G20 an opportunity to show how this type of groupings can make international cooperation viable to face crises of this magnitude, although it also reveals its deficiencies.

“We have the duty to meet this challenge together during this summit and offer a strong message of hope and tranquility,” said King Salman of Saudi Arabia, the country that is hosting the event and this year, in his opening speech. the presidency of the G20.

While the G20 countries have contributed billions of dollars to the development of a coronavirus vaccine, they have also focused primarily on securing their own vaccine supply. Countries like Britain, France and Germany – all G20 member states – have negotiated directly with drug companies for millions of doses to be delivered to them, meaning the vast majority of the world’s vaccine supply for next year is already booked.

US President Donald Trump highlighted his country’s actions to confront the coronavirus and rebuild the economy, as well as his work on vaccines, which are expected to be available soon, according to White House press secretary Kayleigh. McEnany. Yet Trump did not appear to acknowledge Joe Biden’s triumph in this month’s presidential election.

“It has been a great honor working with you and I look forward to working with you again for a long time,” Trump said, according to audio obtained by The Guardian. The South China Morning Post published similar statements.

A day before the summit, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that despite $ 10 billion invested to develop vaccines, diagnostics and therapies, another $ 28 billion is needed for manufacturing, procurement and delivery, all on a large scale, of COVID-19 vaccines around the world.

Guterres proposed that more G20 nations join COVAX, an international initiative to distribute COVID-19 vaccines around the world. The United States declined to join under the Trump administration.

The pandemic has had far-reaching economic repercussions in developing countries and plunged millions into extreme poverty. It has also affected the richest nations in the world and nine G20 countries are among those that accumulate the most cases of COVID-19 globally.

The United States tops the list, followed by India, Brazil, France, Russia, Spain, Great Britain, Argentina and Italy, according to the Johns Hopkins University account.

Three leaders of the G20 nations participating in the summit were infected with coronavirus: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Trump.

The virus shows no signs of abating and major cities in the United States and Europe have reinstated lockdowns and curfews. The World Health Organization ensures that a greater number of COVID-19 cases have been reported in the last four weeks than in the first six months of the pandemic.

According to the International Labor Organization, the equivalent of 225 million full-time jobs have been lost in the G20 countries in the third quarter of the year alone.

Together, the G20 member countries represent 85% of world economic production and three-quarters of international trade.

In a sign of modern times, the traditional group photo of rulers at the summit was digitally designed and superimposed on the image of a historic site on the outskirts of the Saudi capital, Riyadh, where the summit would otherwise have taken place.

“We have the duty to meet this challenge together during this summit and offer a strong message of hope and tranquility,” said King Salman of Saudi Arabia, the country that is hosting the event and this year, in his opening speech. the presidency of the G20.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented crisis that has affected the world in a short period of time, causing social and economic losses worldwide,” declared the Saudi monarch, who in March convened an emergency meeting of the G20, at a time when the virus was spreading alarmingly around the world.

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Associated Press journalists Danica Kirka in London; Tia Goldenberg, in Jerusalem, and Deb Riechmann, in Washington, contributed to this report.