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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - JEDDAH: World leaders pledged more than $8 billion on Monday to research, manufacture and distribute a vaccine and treatments for COVID-19.
Saudi Arabia co-led the online fundraising appeal in its role as G20 president, with the EU, Britain and Norway. Leaders from Japan, Canada, South Africa and dozens of other countries joined the appeal.
King Abdullah of Jordan told the fundraiser that chances of success against the coronavirus increased exponentially when countries worked in partnership, rather than in competition. “Failure is not an option,” he said.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, who chaired the event, said: “In the space of just a few hours we have pledged 7.4 billion euros ($8.1 billion) for vaccine, diagnostics and treatment. This will help kick-start unprecedented global cooperation.”
The appeal for funds will continue for weeks or months, building on efforts by the World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and wealthy individuals. Donors on Monday included pop singer Madonna, who pledged €1 million.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has recovered from a life-threatening battle with COVID-19, said the search for a vaccine was “the most urgent shared endeavor of our lifetime,” and called for “an impregnable shield around all our people.”
The US, which has the world’s most confirmed COVID-19 cases, did not take part in the appeal. Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, whose country pledged $1 billion, said she regretted Washington’s absence. “It is a pity the US is not a part of it,” she said. “When you are in a crisis, you manage it and you do it jointly.”
French President Emmanuel Macron said: “We’ve had discussions with our American partners and I’m convinced they will eventually commit … it’s the way forward for the world.”
Of the $8 billion required immediately, $3 billion will go to develop, manufacture and distribute a vaccine; $2.25 billion to develop treatments; $750 million for testing kits; and $750 million to stockpile protective equipment such as face masks. The remaining $1.25 billion will go to the World Health Organization to support vulnerable countries.
Saudi Arabia reported 1,645 new virus cases on Monday, raising the total to 28,656, and the death toll rose by seven to 191.
Worldwide, the virus has infected about 3.6 million people and killed more than 250,000.
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