G20 says it will strive for fair global access to COVID-19 vaccine

BY Reuters | ECONOMIC | 11/22/20 11:22 AM EST

DUBAI, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Leaders of the 20 biggest economies on Sunday vowed to spare no effort to supply COVID-19 drugs, tests and vaccines affordably and fairly to "all people", reflecting worries that the pandemic could deepen global divisions between rich and poor.

The coronavirus pandemic and prospects of an uneven and uncertain economic recovery have been at the centre of a two-day summit under the chairmanship of Saudi Arabia, which will hand the G20 presidency to Italy next month.

"The COVID-19 pandemic and its unprecedented impact in terms of lives lost, livelihoods and economies affected, is an unparalleled shock that has revealed vulnerabilities in our preparedness and response and underscored our common challenges," the final communique said.

G20 nations will work to "protect lives, provide support with a special focus on the most vulnerable, and put our economies back on a path to restoring growth, and protecting and creating jobs for all."

On vaccines, tests and treatments, the leaders said: "We will spare no effort to ensure their affordable and equitable access for all people."

The world's economy has experienced a sharp contraction this year as measures to contain the spread of the virus have curbed transport, trade, and demand across the planet.

G20 leaders said global economic activity has partially picked up thanks the gradual reopening of some economies but the recovery is uneven, highly uncertain and subject to downside risks.

They reaffirmed their commitment to use "all available policy tools as long as required" to protect people's lives, jobs, and incomes.

DEBT FREEZE

The G20 has endorsed a plan to extend a freeze in debt service payments by the poorest countries to mid-2021 and a common approach for dealing with debt problems beyond that, according to the communique.

They also said they strongly encouraged private creditors to participate in the initiative on comparable terms when requested by eligible countries.

The G20 debt relief initiative has helped 46 countries defer $5.7 billion in 2020 debt service payments, short of the 73 countries that were eligible, and promised savings of around $12 billion.

Debt relief for Africa will be an important theme of the Italian presidency of the G20 in 2021.

The communique also stressed the importance of multilateral institutions and called on the International Monetary Fund to continue exploring additional tools that could help its members? needs as the crisis evolves.

(Reporting by Davide Barbuscia, Maha El Dahan in Dubai; Raya Jalabi in Beirut; Andrea Shalal in Washington, Editing by William Maclean)

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