LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson opened a virtual global conference on Covid-19 on Monday by calling on all countries to step up their efforts and work together on fighting the coronavirus pandemic, the “most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes”.
The Coronavirus Global Response International Pledging Conference was co-hosted by the UK and eight other countries and organisations including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Saudi Arabia, and the European Commission.
At the conference, Johnson confirmed the UK’s pledge of 388 million pounds aid funding for research into vaccines, tests and treatments – part of a larger 744 million pounds existing UK aid commitment to help end the pandemic and support the global economy. This includes 250 million pounds for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to develop vaccines against coronavirus – the biggest such donation to the fund by any country.
“To win this battle, we must work together to build an impregnable shield around all our people, and that can only be achieved by developing and mass producing a vaccine,” said Johnson.
“The more we pull together and share our expertise, the faster our scientists will succeed. The race to discover the vaccine to defeat this virus is not a competition between countries, but the most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes. It’s humanity against the virus – we are in this together, and together we will prevail,” he said.
The conference was updated on the progress at pace on vaccine development, with the University of Oxford and pharmaceutical major AstraZeneca announcing a partnership to support large-scale manufacture and potential distribution of a vaccine currently being trialled by the university.
The UK highlighted that tackling coronavirus globally is crucial to preventing a second wave of the virus re-emerging in Britain, which would put even further pressure on the state-funded National Health Service (NHS). It will also ensure that life-saving vaccines, treatments and diagnostic tests are available as soon as possible.
UK International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said: “It is only by working together that we will prevent future waves of infection and end this pandemic as quickly as possible.
“By strengthening developing countries’ health systems and working to find a vaccine, the UK is playing its part in stopping the global spread of coronavirus to save lives everywhere and protect our NHS.”
The conference this week will be followed up by the UK hosting the Global Vaccine Summit on June 4, bringing together countries and organisations to follow the UK’s lead in investing in the work of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
Last week Trevelyan announced a funding pledge equivalent to 330 million pounds a year over the next five years to Gavi. This will help immunise 75 million children in the world’s poorest countries.