Boris Johnson urges G7 leaders to unite to defeat 'common foe' of coronavirus

13 February 2021, 22:32

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the QuantuMDx Biotechnology company in Newcastle
Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the QuantuMDx Biotechnology company in Newcastle. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Boris Johnson will urge world leaders to work together to defeat the "common foe" of coronavirus when he hosts his first meeting of the UK presidency of the G7.

The Prime Minister will call for an end to the "nationalist and divisive politics" which marred the initial response to the pandemic, as he chairs the virtual gathering on Friday.

According to Downing Street Mr Johnson will say the rollout of vaccines offers a fresh opportunity to demonstrate the value of international co-operation.

Read more: Boris Johnson 'optimistic' ahead of his roadmap for easing lockdown

The online meeting - ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall in June - marks US president Joe Biden's first major multilateral engagement since entering the White House last month.

Among those involved with the G7, there is reportedly relief at the prospect of dealing with a president committed to upholding the international order after the turbulent years of Donald Trump.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Johnson said: "The solutions to the challenges we face - from the colossal mission to get vaccines to every single country, to the fight to reverse the damage done to our ecosystems and lead a sustainable recovery from coronavirus - lie in the discussions we have with our friends and partners around the world.

"Quantum leaps in science have given us the vaccines we need to end this pandemic for good. Now world governments have a responsibility to work together to put those vaccines to the best possible use.

"I hope 2021 will be remembered as the year humanity worked together like never before to defeat a common foe."

The Prime Minister's comments came after he said he was "optimistic" he will be able to begin announcing the easing of some restrictions when he sets out his roadmap out of lockdown on 22 February.

The prime minister told reporters during a visit to a vaccine manufacturing facility plant in Billingham, Teesside - where the new Novavax vaccine will be manufactured - that he is confident but "cautious" ahead of his announcement in nine days.

"I'm optimistic, I won't hide it from you. I'm optimistic, but we have to be cautious," he said.

He also told LBC he was "hopeful" that pubs would be able to open their outdoor areas by Easter.

Mr Johnson explained that his first priority remained opening schools in England on 8 March before any other sectors.

"Our children's education is our number one priority, but then working forward, getting non-essential retail open as well and then, in due course as and when we can prudently, cautiously, of course, we want to be opening hospitality as well," he said.

"I will be trying to set out as much as I possibly can in as much detail as I can, always understanding that we have to be wary of the pattern of disease. We don't want to be forced into any kind of retreat or reverse ferret."