President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses a media conference after concluding a virtual extraordinary G20 Leaders Summit on a co-ordinated international response to the Covid-19 pandemic, at the Reserve Bank in Pretoria, March 26 2020. Picture: PHIL MAGAKOE/AFP
President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses a media conference after concluding a virtual extraordinary G20 Leaders Summit on a co-ordinated international response to the Covid-19 pandemic, at the Reserve Bank in Pretoria, March 26 2020. Picture: PHIL MAGAKOE/AFP

Riyadh — Leaders from the G20 nations on Thursday said they were injecting more than $5-trillion into the global economy and committed to do “whatever it takes” to overcome the coronavirus pandemic and its fallout.

“The virus respects no borders,” they said in a joint statement after an extraordinary G20 leaders’ summit convened virtually amid the outbreak. “We are strongly committed to presenting a united front against this common threat.”

President Ramaphosa addressed the meeting via teleconference, calling on richer countries to support the continent’s economies. “We as Africa have called upon the countries of the G20, particularly the more developed economies, to support stimulus packages to Africa,” he told the media afterwards.

The gathering, chaired by Saudi Arabia, was joined by leaders from member countries and included representatives of international organisations such as the UN. Co-ordination among G20 countries was instrumental for action to stabilise the global economy during the financial crisis that started in 2008.

“We will continue to conduct bold and large-scale fiscal support,” the leaders said. “The magnitude and scope of this response will get the global economy back on its feet and set a strong basis for the protection of jobs and the recovery of growth.”

In a statement after the video call, Indonesian President Joko Widodo referred to two “wars” the world was facing: against the virus and against the weakening of the world economy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a videoconference with G20 leaders to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic on March 26 2020. Picture: SPUTNIK/AFP/ALEXEY DRUZHININ
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a videoconference with G20 leaders to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic on March 26 2020. Picture: SPUTNIK/AFP/ALEXEY DRUZHININ

“G-20 must actively lead efforts to find anti-virus and Covid-19 drugs,” he said. At the same time, “we must prevent a global economic recession, through coordinated fiscal and monetary policies, and expand and strengthen social safety nets”.

The joint statement made no mention of the oil shock triggered by the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. The Trump administration is pressing Saudi Arabia to dial back its plan to flood the oil market after crude prices crashed to their lowest levels in almost two decades.

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the eve of the conference call in the most direct intervention yet by the US.

Containing the outbreak

With parts of Europe and the US in the grip of the outbreak, governments across the world are desperately trying to acquire and stockpile critical medical supplies such as masks, ventilators and gowns as frontline doctors and nurses face shortages. That’s forcing many of the biggest makers to run factories around the clock to meet demand.

In a press release on Thursday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on governments to work together “to create a vaccine as quickly as possible and make it available to anyone who needs it.” He said the U.K. was pledging an additional £210m to that effort.

The G-20 leaders also pledged more manufacturing and investment to meet the needs for medical supplies and ensure their availability “at an affordable price, on an equitable basis, where they are most needed and as quickly as possible”.

“We commit to strengthen national, regional, and global capacities to respond to potential infectious disease outbreaks by substantially increasing our epidemic preparedness spending,” they said.

The World Health Organisation was also asked to co-operate with relevant organisations to assess gaps in pandemic preparedness and make a report in the coming months to a joint meeting of finance and health ministers.

“This initiative will capitalise on existing programmes to align priorities in global preparedness and act as a universal, efficient, sustained funding and coordination platform to accelerate the development and delivery of vaccines, diagnostics and treatments,” the statement said.

The G20 highlighted the threats faced by countries in the developing world — especially in Africa and small island nations — whose health systems and economies might struggle to contain the outbreak. It also drew attention to the risks faced by refugees and displaced persons.

“We consider that consolidating Africa’s health defense is a key for the resilience of global health,” the leaders said.

Bloomberg