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COVID-19: B20 urges action by G20 leaders to address pandemic

🕤 March 24, 2020 | 11:52 am

[San Diego: The USNS Mercy hospital ship leaves port Monday, March 23, 2020, in San Diego. The Navy hospital ship left San Diego on Tuesday and planned to spend a few days at sea getting its newly formed medical team used to working together before arriving to Los Angeles to help the city free up its hospital beds, in efforts to help combat the coronavirus. /PTI] Riyadh, March 24 : The B20 Saudi Arabia, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), and the World Health Organization (WHO) in an open letter urged the G20 community to work in close coordination with the private sector to address the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed over 16,000 lives across the world so far. The letter, signed by Yousef Al-Benyan, Chair of the B20 Saudi Arabia, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General, and John W.H. Denton AO, ICC Secretary General, stated that to address the COVID-19 crisis, a coordinated global response is paramount to address the resulting health and economic issues as the pandemic continues. From ensuring robust testing and ramping up equipment production to navigating trade issues and supporting small businesses and workers, the letter said that the private sector will be a crucial partner to the governments of the G20 member states and beyond as the world continues to navigate the crisis. The letter, addressed to G20 leaders on Monday, stated: "A common framework for co-ordinated global action is necessary to support the national priorities that most G20 governments have announced in the recent days." Some of the key points highlighted in the letter are: *Substantially improve experience sharing and monitoring A pandemic of transborder impact calls for the G20 to substantially improve information and experience sharing, and coordinated monitoring, not just among Ministers and health officials, but also city mayors and administrators. *Ensure infection control and medical products reach the hands of those who need them the most Export bans or limits on the free flow of all necessary medical supplies, medicines, disinfectant, soap and persona! protective equipment are significantly hindering the global response effort. We note with severe concern the reported increase of export restrictions for essential health products. Given the globally integrated nature of medical supply chains, short-sighted trade restrictions will only exacerbate the potential long-term toll of a virus that crosses borders with ease. * Use the private sector to support testing. Testing and contact tracing are essential to suppress and contain the pandemic. To meet this need for testing, the private sector should be allowed and encouraged to support government services for bath diagnostics and surveillance with mechanisms to assure quality and ensure reporting to national authorities. * Ramp-up production of medical equipment & disinfectants. The G20 must substantially ramp-up domestic production of medical equipment and disinfectants to address severe shortages of protection essentials such as masks, soaps and sanitizers. Excess capacities in unrelated manufacturing sectors could be deployed for the urgent ramp-up. Governments must accelerate ail regulatory approvals, such as licenses and certifications, to urgently meet this need. * Ensure equitable access to essential medical supplies and health services. G20 leaders must do all they can to ensure the accessibility and affordability of necessary medical supplies, focusing on the major cost drivers as well as, where applicable and where significant to pricing, import taxes, quotas, anti-hoarding mechanisms, and other government-imposed costs as well as ensuring appropriate logistics & supply chains , such as air cargo facilities, remain operational. * Increase international assistance A crisis at home is no excuse to leave neediest behind and developing countries outside the G20 remain most vulnerable. We call on G20 leaders to significantly scale financial assistance to help the world's poorest countries deal with the likely effects of COVID-19 - bath by increasing aid funding for public health programmes and broader social and economic interventions. /IANS

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