Coronavirus: Brown, Blair and Major join more than 200 world leaders and experts to call for ‘urgent’ funding to prevent second wave of pandemic

G20 nations must provide billions to ‘fill urgent gaps in Covid-19 response’ and support poorer countries, says open letter signed by former PMs, scientists, economists and charities

Chris Baynes
Tuesday 07 April 2020 16:51
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Coronavirus in numbers

Three former British prime ministers have joined 200 other previous or current global leaders, scientists and economists, to call on the world’s richest nations to approve billions in emergency funding to tackle coronavirus in poorer countries.

Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and John Major signed an open letter urging G20 countries to speed up the search for a vaccine and cure – and prevent a second wave of the pandemic.

The group asked world leaders to “immediately agree” to commit £8bn (£6.5bn) “to fill the most urgent gaps in the Covid-19 response”.

This should include $1bn (£810m) “urgently needed” this year by the World Health Organisation (WHO), $3bn (£2.4bn) to accelerate and scale up efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine, and $2.25bn (£1.8bn) to improve access to treatments, they said.

A further $35bn (£28bn) will be required to support countries with weaker health systems and especially vulnerable populations, including by funding vital medical supplies and extra staff, the letter adds.

It continues: “All health systems – even the most sophisticated and best funded – are buckling under the pressures of the virus.

“Yet if we do nothing as the disease spreads in poorer African, Asian, and Latin American cities and in fragile communities which have little testing equipment, ventilators, and medical supplies, and where social distancing and even washing hands are difficult to achieve, Covid-19 will persist there and re-emerge to hit the rest of the world with further rounds that will prolong the crisis.”

Instead of countries “competing” for medical supplies, the letter states, they should support the WHO in coordinating global production and procurement of testing kits, personal protection equipment and ventilators.

“We will also need to stockpile and distribute essential equipment,” it adds.

The letter was spearheaded by Mr Brown; Erik Berglof, a former chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; and Jeremy Farrar, director of global health charity the Wellcome Trust.

As well as calling for emergency health funding, the signatories – including 195 individuals and 10 charities – demanded a better coordinated global financial response to the coronavirus crisis to prevent “a global recession becoming a global depression”.

At least $150bn (£121bn) in overall funding will be needed to fund healthcare, social safety nets and other urgent help in developing nations, who face an “existential threat to their economies”, the letter states.

The international community should waive poorer countries’ debt repayments for this year, including $44bn (£36bn) due from African nations, its adds.

The letter says this response should be coordinated by a G20 executive task force and should be confirmed in full at upcoming meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

“The longer-term solution is a radical rethink of global public health and a refashioning – together with proper resourcing – of the global health and financial architecture,” adds the open letter.

Ninety-two former world leaders signed the letter, including Ireland’s Bertie Ahern, Australia’s Kevin Rudd, and Belgium’s Guy Verhofstadt.

Other signatories include Ban Ki-moon, former UN secretary-general; Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, and billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

G20 leaders have pledged to inject more than £4tn into the global economy to mitigate the impact of coronavirus, but UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said last week that “massive support to the developing world” was still needed.

He warned Covid-19 could kill millions of people as it spreads to the southern hemisphere, adding he was “particularly concerned with the African continent”, where many nations have fragile health systems.

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