United G20 agrees on measures to combat coronavirus pandemic

Leaders of the biggest countries on Thursday took part in an extraordinary “virtual summit,” under the auspices of the Saudi Arabia G20 presidency, to combat the threat to lives and livelihood from the coronavirus disease COVID-19 — and issued a call for global action in the face of an unprecedented crisis.

“We are strongly committed to presenting a united front against this common threat,” they said after two hours of digital debate organized by the Saudi G20 team in Riyadh.

“We will protect human life, restore global economic stability and lay out solid foundations for strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth,” the leaders added in their joint statement.

The traditional communique from the national leaders and other international leaders — which is expected after G20 summits but often delayed as a result of last-minute quibbles about wording and content — was published only minutes after King Salman closed the meeting.

In the face of the global pandemic, there seemed to be little disagreement that urgent and concerted action was necessary.

“The G20 is committed to do whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic, along with the World Health Organization, International Monetary Fund, World Bank Group, United Nations and other international organizations, working within their existing mandates. We are determined to spare no effort, both individually and collectively,” the leaders said.

The communique listed the G20’s priorities: To protect lives, safeguard jobs and incomes, restore confidence, preserve financial stability, revive growth and recover stronger.

It also pledged to minimize disruption to trade and global supply chains, provide help to poorer countries, and coordinate public health and financial measures.

The meeting — the first “virtual” summit in the G20’s 21-year history — was staged ahead of the planned full gathering in Riyadh in November, and conducted digitally because of the restrictions on air travel.