Trump calls into virtual G20 summit, talks COVID-19 with world leaders

People hold posters of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi near the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul

"We must work to create the conditions for affordable and equitable access to these tools for all peoples", Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz said in his opening remarks.

US President Donald Trump went golfing after making a brief online appearance at the G20 summit Saturday, an event hosted by Saudi Arabia but staged virtually because of Covid-19. It has also plagued the world's wealthiest nations, with nine G-20 countries ranking highest globally for the most cases of COVID-19 recorded. The United States tops the list, followed by India, Brazil, France, Russia, Spain, the U.K., Argentina and Italy, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

The virus shows no signs of abating as major cities in the United States and Europe bring back lockdowns and curfews.

Pharmaceutical companies and research centres around the world are working on potential COVID-19 vaccines, with large global trials of several of the candidates involving tens of thousands of participants underway.

"Instead of signalling its concern for Saudi Arabia's serious abuses, the G20 is bolstering the Saudi government's well-funded publicity efforts to portray the country as "reforming" despite a significant increase in repression".

With COVID-19 still causing widespread damage across the world, China on Saturday called for concerted efforts from major economies to promote more inclusive development and improve global governance in the post-pandemic era.

"Today we are facing a health crisis that threatens the lives of millions of people", Macron said.

"We need to show global solidarity", she said.

After his moment in the virtual limelight, Trump was substituted by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as the other world leaders had their say.

In a sign of the times, the traditional "family photo" of leaders in the summit was digitally designed and superimposed on a historical site just outside the Saudi capital, Riyadh, which would have hosted the gathering.

While G-20 countries have contributed billions of dollars toward developing a vaccine for the virus, they have also mostly focused on securing their own vaccine supplies. He will also encourage other leaders to step up and support the Covax initiative, to ensure developing countries are not frozen out of the race for a vaccine.

"At the G20 Summit I called for $4.5 billion to be invested in ACT Accelerator by the end of 2020, for procurement & delivery of COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines everywhere", European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter. "It's the duty of the worldwide community to call on the release of Loujain". The United States has declined to join under Trump.

The G20 launched the DSSI in April to address the immediate liquidity needs of low-income countries, allowing the debt service payments due from May 1 to the end of the year owed by the most impoverished countries to be suspended.

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