SINGAPORE: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has called on the world leaders to work together to ensure affordable and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and boost global disease surveillance networks to prepare nations for any such future outbreaks.
Addressing the virtual G20 Summit hosted by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Lee on Saturday said that the group is well placed to coordinate and drive the global response required to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, the Straits Times reported.
Saudi Arabia, which assumed the G20 presidency this year, is the host of the virtual summit that is bringing together leaders from the world’s richest and most developed economies, such as the US, China, India, Turkey, France, the UK and Brazil, among others.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is among those participating in the closed-door virtual sessions that are taking place Saturday and Sunday.
Singapore has been invited to this year’s G20 meetings as a guest.
It is also convener of the Global Governance Group – an informal coalition of 30 countries that seeks to influence the G20 to take into account the interests of smaller countries affected by its decisions.
Lee called on the world leaders to ensure affordable and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines – a point also made by other leaders, including King Salman.
The Singapore premier expressed happiness that the G20 had advanced vaccine multilateralism by backing global initiatives such as the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator and the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (Covax) Facility, which were set up to ensure that the distribution of any new vaccines would be shared equally.
The scale of the pandemic led to a scramble for medical supplies earlier this year, with some countries limiting exports, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned about a similar situation with “vaccine nationalism”, The Straits Times reported.
Singapore is a co-chair of the Friends of the Covax Facility, and will do its part in contributing to the Covax Advance Market Commitment, which helps fund vaccines for lower-income countries, said Lee.
Singapore will also continue to work closely with the WHO and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to accelerate vaccine development and enhance long-term pandemic preparedness, Lee said.
He said that there is a need to strengthen global disease surveillance networks so that the world will be better prepared for the next pandemic.
Effectiveness of such networks depends on countries investing in their domestic surveillance and response capabilities, and on their willingness to share information with one another, he said.
“COVID-19 has wreaked havoc in the whole world. But the next pandemic – Disease X – may be more contagious and far deadlier,” The Straits Times quoted Lee as saying.
Lee said the Saudi presidency had galvanised international action by coordinating fiscal resources, priorities and policies on a level, by supporting the most vulnerable countries and by completing a G20 action plan for a strong and sustainable economic recovery.
Singapore stands ready to support the G20 in its endeavours to reinvigorate multilateralism – and to create a fair, predictable and stable international order, which will allow every country, big and small, to grow and prosper, he said.
He also hoped that all countries would embrace multilateral cooperation under the leadership of the WHO.
“COVID-19 has reinforced the need for countries to work together. Ultimately, no country is safe until every country is safe,” he said.
The G20 comprises 19 large advanced and emerging economies and the European Union, and was convened by the US to coordinate a global response to the 2008 global financial crisis.