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G20 leaders urge united response to virus

The G20 summit has begun with appeals by the world’s most powerful leaders to collectively chart a way forward amid the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 overshadows this year’s gathering, transforming it from in-person meetings to a virtual gathering of speeches and declarations.

The pandemic, which has claimed more than 1.37 million lives worldwide, has offered the G20 an opportunity to prove how such bodies can facilitate international cooperation in crises – but has also underscored their shortcomings.

Saudi Arabia has presided over the G20 this year and is hosting the summit.

“We have a duty to rise to the challenge together during this summit and give a strong message of hope and reassurance,” King Salman said in his opening remarks.

The pandemic has had far-reaching economic impact on developing countries, but has also plagued the world’s wealthiest nations, with nine G20 countries ranking highest globally for the most cases of COVID-19 recorded.

The United States tops the list, followed by India, Brazil, France, Russia, Spain, the U.K., Argentina and Italy, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Three G20 leaders participating in the summit have been infected by the coronavirus this year: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and US President Donald Trump.

The virus shows no signs of abating as major cities in the US and Europe bring back lockdowns and curfews.

In a video statement released ahead of the summit, Johnson appealed to global leaders to harness the resources of the world’s wealthiest nations to end the COVID-19 pandemic and tackle climate change.

“Our fates are in each other’s hands,” he said.

Johnson plans to attend two virtual events at the summit while self-isolating at home in London after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Bolsonaro, who spent months downplaying the severity of the virus while deaths mounted rapidly inside Brazil, said in a video message ahead of the summit that cooperation within the G20 is key to overcoming the pandemic.

“From the very beginning, we have emphasised that we should take care of people’s health and of the economy at the same time. Time has proven us right,” he said.

President Trump, meanwhile, is among other G-20 leaders expected to participate in the closed-door virtual sessions that are taking place Saturday and Sunday.

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