G20 leaders vow action against coronavirus

Online meeting convened by Saudi Arabia discussed measures to avert massive economic fallout from Covid-19 pandemic

Saudi Arabia's King Salman during a previous G20 meeting. The kingdom holds the rotating presidency of the G20 and will hold a virutal meeting of energy ministers on Friday. Saudi Press Agency
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Leaders of the world's leading economies presented a united front against the coronavirus on Thursday and said they were injecting $5 trillion (Dh18.3tn) into the world economy to counter damage from the pandemic that has killed more than 21,000 people.

A statement by the G20 at the end of the video conference chaired by Saudi King Salman said the group's "absolute priority" was to tackle the effects of the virus.

World leaders meet online to discuss Coronavirus pandemic

World leaders meet online to discuss Coronavirus pandemic

"We are injecting over $5tn into the global economy, as part of targeted fiscal policy, economic measures and guarantee schemes to counteract the social, economic and financial impacts of the pandemic," the statement said.

The leaders of the world's largest economies promised to "share timely and transparent information; exchange epidemiological and clinical data; share materials necessary for research and development; and strengthen health systems globally".

They said they were committed to restoring confidence to the markets and preserving financial stability, and solving disruptions to global supply chains.

"Tackling the pandemic and its intertwined health, social and economic impacts is our absolute priority," the statement said.

International Monetary Fund managing director Kristalina Georgieva, who was in the conference, said aid should be provided to "vulnerable households" and businesses.

"Otherwise it will take years to overcome the effects of widespread bankruptcies and layoffs," Ms Georgieva said.

King Salman urged the group to take firm measures on several fronts to combat coronavirus outbreak.

“The G20 must send a strong signal to regain confidence in the world economy,” he said.

King Salman urged G20 leaders to offer a "helping hand" to developing nations and said the body's priority should be to guarantee the availability of basic medical supplies.

He spoke on the video conference to world leaders including Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - March 26, 2020: HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, participates in the virtual G20 Leaders Summit. 

( Mohamed Al Hammadi / Ministry of Presidential Affairs )
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, takes part in the G20 leaders summit on March 26, 2020. Mohamed Al Hammadi / Ministry of Presidential Affairs

Sheikh Mohamed said an "international response" was needed to tackle the pandemic.

"I took part in the G20 summit where decisions were taken that reflect a consensus that an international response is needed to tackle the Covid-19 threat," he tweeted.

"The UAE supports all actions to contain the virus. Together we are strong and only together can we overcome this threat."

Riyadh said earlier that King Salman called the meeting to “advance a co-ordinated global response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its human and economic implications".

Saudi Arabia holds the rotating presidency of the G20 this year.

Ms Georgieva praised King Salman's initiative "for calling this extraordinary summit so we can close ranks as a global community to protect people’s lives and guard the world economy".

"We project a contraction of global output in 2020, and recovery in 2021," she said after the meeting. "How deep the contraction and how fast the recovery depends on the speed of containment of the pandemic and on how strong and co-ordinated our monetary and fiscal policy actions are."

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for the world to act together to halt the spread of the disease.

"Covid-19 is threatening the whole of humanity," Mr Guterres said. "Global action and solidarity are crucial. Individual country responses are not going to be enough."

Lockdowns around the world to stop the spread of the disease, which included India's 1.3 billion people this week, tightened further on Thursday.

Russia announced it was grounding all international flights, while Moscow's mayor ordered cafes, shops and parks to be closed.

Tokyo's millions of citizens have been told to stay home and tourism-dependent Thailand closed its borders.

Economists say the restrictions imposed around the world could cause the most violent recession in recent history.

"The G20 economies will experience an unprecedented shock in the first half of this year and will contract in 2020 as a whole," rating agency Moody's said.

Unemployment rates are expected to soar around the world, as much as 30 per cent in the US, said James Bullard, president of the St Louis Federal Reserve.

A record 3.3 million people filed for unemployment benefits in America last week as the crisis started to hit businesses.