Britain has reportedly become the single largest contributor to the international fund working to develop a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new commitment of £210 million on Thursday to support the work of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which is leading the effort to find a vaccine.
The announcement came following a virtual summit of leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) — a group of finance ministers and bank governors for 19 of the world's largest economies and the European Union — the group’s first meeting since the COVID-19 outbreak.
Johnson — who further announced on Twitter on Friday that he's tested positive for coronavirus himself — called on governments around the world to work together to develop a vaccine and make it widely available for anyone who needs it.
“While our brilliant doctors and nurses fight coronavirus at home, this record British funding will help to find a vaccine for the entire world,” Johnson said. “UK medics and researchers are at the forefront of this pioneering work.”
Just hours after the commitment was announced, at 8 p.m. on Thursday, people across the UK joined together in a national round of applause in appreciation of all the NHS workers who are working so hard to treat and care for patients.
Thursday’s commitment takes the total UK funding for CEPI to £250 million — while in total, UK aid has contributed £544 million to global efforts to fight COVID-19, according to the government.
But CEPI has said it needs $2 billion (£1.7 billion) in funding — the equivalent of all G20 governments pledging $100 million to the fund.
“My call to every G20 country and to governments around the world is to step up and help us defeat this virus,” continued Johnson. “In the meantime, I want to repeat to everyone that they should stay at home, protect the NHS, and save lives.”
A further UK aid commitment, also announced on Thursday, will work to produce rapid tests for coronavirus, and to test and develop medicines to treat the virus — both in the UK and around the world.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Britain’s international development secretary, said the UK’s support would be “vital in efforts to find a coronavirus vaccines and treatments, which will ultimately help stop its spread around the world.”
“We are backing experts, including in the UK, to find solutions as quickly as possible to this pandemic,” she continued. “This will ultimately help us to save lives in this country.”
The G20 virtual meeting, hosted by King Salman of Saudi Arabia, saw leaders discuss international efforts to protect the global economy in the long-term, as well as as united effort to tackle COVID-19, and strengthen health systems globally for the future.
Health experts are particularly concerned about a lack of health infrastructure in developing countries, which they’ve identified as one of the biggest risks to the global effort against coronavirus — with potential for a “second wave” of cases.
G20 leaders committed to a “transparent, robust, coordinated, large-scale, and science-based global response in the spirit of solidarity,” and further added in a statement that they were “committed to do whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic.”
Leaders said that they would be working alongside organisations like the World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to take a unified global approach.
They further committed to “provide immediate resources” to the global organisations and partnerships leading the response — such as the WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, CEPI, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, on a “voluntary basis.”
“We call upon all countries, international organisations, the private sector, philanthropies, and individuals to contribute to these efforts,” G20 leaders added in their statement.
The G20 leaders also included a commitment to “substantially” increase epidemic preparedness spending, working to “strengthen national, regional, and global capacities to respond to potential infectious disease outbreaks.”
“This will enhance the protection of everyone, especially vulnerable groups that are disproportionately affected by infectious diseases,” their statement continued.
The leaders highlighted that, more than ever, global action, solidarity, and international cooperation are needed to address the pandemic.
“We are confident that, working closely together, we will overcome this,” they said. “We will protect human life, restore global economic stability, and lay out solid foundations for strong, sustainable, balanced, and inclusive growth.”
You can join the global efforts against coronavirus by taking meaningful action through our Together At Home campaign — including actions like calling on G20 leaders to support the effort to develop a vaccine; calling on EU leaders to protect refugees in Europe; spreading the word about the WHO's COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, and more.
You can see all of Global Citizen's COVID-19 coverage here.