G7 leaders have pledged to intensify co-operation, boost funding and provide “affordable and equitable access to vaccines” for poorer countries in their bid to beat the scourge of coronavirus.
During a virtual summit, chaired by the UK as the group’s current president, the heads of government for the world’s leading democracies also committed to making 2021 a “turning point for multilateralism and to shape a recovery that promotes the health and prosperity of our people and planet”. The declaration, signed by US President Joe Biden, was a clear denunciation of Donald Trump’s policy of “America First” and refusal to accept the norms of international co-operation.
Boris Johnson, addressing his fellow leaders from the Cabinet Room of No 10, made clear to his fellow G7 leaders that there was “no point” in vaccinating national populations if efforts were not made to ensure the “whole world” received jabs.
“We’ve got to make sure the whole world is vaccinated because this is a global pandemic and it’s no use one country being far ahead of another, we’ve got to move together,” declared the Prime Minister.
Ahead of the summit, he made clear Britain would donate the majority of its surplus vaccines to poorer nations and he urged other G7 countries to follow suit.
“One of the things that I know that colleagues will be wanting to do is to ensure that we distribute vaccines at cost around the world; make sure everybody gets the vaccines that they need so that the whole world can come through this pandemic together.”
The PM used Friday’s online gathering to argue for an increase in funding for Covax, the United Nations-led multilateral global vaccine supply scheme aimed at helping poorer countries get vaccines.
The push was well-received as the leaders issued a joint statement afterwards agreeing to “intensify co-operation” on responding to the pandemic with a doubling in funding to Covax from $3.5 billion to $7.5bn[£5.3bn].
The leaders’ statement said: “We will intensify co-operation on the health response to Covid-19. The dedication of essential workers everywhere represents the best of humanity, while the rapid discovery of vaccines shows the power of human ingenuity.
“Working with, and together to strengthen, the World Health Organisation and supporting its leading and co-ordinating role, we will: accelerate global vaccine development and deployment; work with industry to increase manufacturing capacity, including through voluntary licensing; improve information-sharing, such as on sequencing new variants; and, promote transparent and responsible practices, and vaccine confidence.”
The heads of government in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US also reaffiem their support for Covax, including “affordable and equitable access to vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, reflecting the role of extensive immunisation as a global public good”.
Oxfam welcomed the steps taken by the G7 but said they remained “insufficient when compared to the scale of the Covid-19 threat”.
Later, Downing St said the PM welcomed the “united stance” taken by the G7 in condemning the recent coup in Myanmar and the detention of Alexey Navalny in Russia. It said he had stressed the responsibility the G7 had to “demonstrate to the world the benefit of our shared democratic values in creating open and prosperous societies”.
The summit also committed to:
*support our economies to protect jobs and support a strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive recovery;
*deliver a green transformation and clean energy transitions that cut emissions and create good jobs on a path to net zero no later than 2050 and
*support the staging of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo “in a safe and secure manner this summer as a symbol of global unity in overcoming Covid-19”.