Mon, 06 Apr 2020

The Group of 20 nations promised to collaborate Thursday in the global fight to address the coronavirus pandemic as it faces mounting criticism for not doing more to limit the spread of the virus and contain the damage to world economies.

After holding an emergency virtual meeting, the group said it would provide $4.8 billion to help bolster the global economy and to help dampen the financial and social damage the coronavirus has inflicted worldwide.

The G-20 said in a statement after the meeting that "global action, solidarity and international cooperation" were badly needed and that "the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic is a powerful reminder of our interconnectedness and vulnerabilities."

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the G-20 leaders to approach the pandemic as if they were preparing to go to war, declaring "we are at war with a virus and not winning it."

Saying the rapid global spread of the virus was "only the tip of the iceberg," Guterres told the leaders that countries must work to suppress the virus until a vaccine is available by developing plans that include testing, tracking, isolation and treatment.

"This human crisis requires a global response," said Saudi King Salman, who is presiding over the G-20 this year. He called on the world's 20 major industrialized nations to finance the development of a vaccine.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during the virtual summit that the United Kingdom would provide an additional $302 million to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which supports vaccine development.

As the G-20 leaders discussed a global plan to address the pandemic, COVID-19 continued its spread.

Italy, the United States, and Spain are now among the key centers in the fight against the global coronavirus outbreak, according to the latest statistics on confirmed cases.

China had been the hardest-hit country, with the highest case and death counts since the virus emerged there in late December.

However, Italy and Spain have reported more deaths, with Spanish health officials reporting 665 more deaths Thursday, bringing its total to more than 4,000.

Spain's parliament approved a government request to extend the country's state of emergency and a lockdown requiring businesses to close and people to stay home at least through mid-April.

Italy, with nearly 74,400 reported cases Thursday, was also close to surpassing China in its number of cases, and given escalating case numbers in recent days, the United States will, too. As of early Thursday, Johns Hopkins University figures put the United States at 69,000 confirmed cases, with more than 1,000 dead.

U.S. lawmakers are trying to speed medical aid to hospitals where doctors and nurses are facing shortages of protective equipment to keep them safe as they care for coronavirus patients.

Lockdowns in many U.S. states have badly hurt the U.S. economy, and a $2 trillion package passed by the Senate late Wednesday seeks to give loans to businesses, boost unemployment benefits and send checks to American households. The measure is expected to pass the House of Representatives on Friday for signature by President Donald Trump.

Such economic measures have helped boost world markets this week. South Korea's central bank announced Thursday that it was providing unprecedented support to financial institutions.

The coronavirus has reached virtually every country, infecting more than 488,000 people and killing more than 22,000 as of early Thursday, according to Hopkins.

More than one-third of the world's population, 2.8 billion people, are subject to travel restrictions.

In response to sharp increases in infections in recent days, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Thursday that the country would prohibit foreign visitors from 21 European countries and Iran. The ban will take effect at midnight Thursday and comes after Japan had previously barred visitors from China and South Korea.

China announced Thursday that it would temporarily bar foreign nationals with housing permits and visas from entering the country in an attempt to cut the number of imported coronavirus cases.

The G-20 leaders meeting was held by a rare video call instead of a physical gathering in compliance with government mandates to practice social distancing.

World leaders such as Canada's Justin Trudeau, whose wife was infected by the virus, could be seen on a digital screen sitting at a desk in photos distributed via Twitter by European Council President Charles Michel.

Images shared by the Saudi Foreign Ministry showed U.S. President Donald Trump seated at the end of a long conference table in Washington at which other U.S. officials were seated.

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