World leaders step up action to fight coronavirus crisis

World leaders stepped up their commitments on Friday to fighting the pandemic by speeding up the roll-out of vaccinations across the globe amid the growing threat posed by new mutations of the deadly coronavirus.

The Group of Seven major economic powers boosted support for the global vaccination campaign in poorer countries by more than 4 billion dollars, at a virtual summit hosted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. That brings the total pledged by the G7 nations to 7.5 billion dollars.

The G7 leaders’ push to counter the crisis unleashed by the pandemic also formed part of their efforts to restore global cooperation. In their final statement, they declared that they planned to make 2021 a “turning point for multilateralism.”

“We will continue to support our economies to protect jobs and support a strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive recovery,“ the G7 nations, France, Germany, the United States, Italy, Japan and Canada, said following their meeting.

At the same time, speakers also told the annual Munich Security Conference that joint global action was needed to tackle the coronavirus, which has already killed more 2.4 million people around the world, according to the US-based Johns Hopkins University.

“Without global solidarity, this virus cannot be defeated,” the World Health Organization (WHO) leader told the Munich Security Conference through a video link from Geneva.

Leaving poorer countries without immunizations will allow the coronavirus to mutate, and vaccines will become less effective, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“We could end up back at square one,” said the WHO chief, who welcomed US President Joe Biden’s decision to walk back on a decision by the previous administration to exit the organization.

The Microsoft founder and co-chairman of the Gates Foundation Bill Gates told the Munich conference the world will soon have to invest billions in preparing for the next pandemic to avoid another “tragedy” like the current one.

Ramping up vaccination production and deploying a permanent team of some 3,000 experts and researchers were two immediate measures that are needed to help in the fight to contain the next global pandemic, Gates said.

“It’s a tragedy that the limited steps that would have been needed in advance to contain this epidemic were not taken,” Gates told the conference, also speaking through a video link.

The global economy had lost trillions of dollars and governments are saddled with record debt, he pointed out.

Also speaking at the conference, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for the launch of a global vaccination plan to help counter the coronavirus pandemic.

Setting out details of his proposal, Guterres told the conference that global strategy should be forged under the auspices of the Group of 20 leading economies.

He said an emergency task force was needed to draw up a strategy and oversee the allocation of extra vaccine doses between nations to help poor countries address the crisis.

The UN chief told the Munich conference, also held online this year, that countries as well as “companies that have scientific experience and logistics” should form part of the global plan.

In comments to the G7 summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that that “the pandemic will not be defeated until everyone in the world has been vaccinated.”

As long as infections are spreading on a large scale, the virus mutates, which can weaken vaccines’ effectiveness, she said.

This must be prevented, Merkel said. “That means everyone must participate.”

For his part, French President Emmanuel Macron stressed at the G7 the need for rich countries give up 4 to 5 per cent of their vaccine doses to poorer countries as soon as possible.

Macron also floated the possibility of sending 13 million doses of the vaccine to help African nations contain the pandemic.

“If we, Europeans, Americans, can deliver these 13 million doses as soon as possible, that would be worth an enormous amount,” he said in a speech to the Munich conference.