Coronavirus: World leaders to hold virtual summit on global coronavirus response

24 March 2020, 20:37 | Updated: 24 March 2020, 21:32

World leaders are planning an unprecedented virtual summit to coordinate a global response to the Coronavirus pandemic. 

The extraordinary event will be convened in the coming days under the G20 presidency currently held by Saudi Arabia.

Saudi organisers told Sky News there is a need to agree on how to move forward collectively on the COVID-19 emergency.

The meeting would follow a virtual summit of G20 finance minsters and central bank governors that was held on Monday.
In that meeting, G20 finance ministers agreed to develop a G20 Joint Action Plan.

They discussed the role of the IMF, World Bank and other international financial institutions to "deploy all available resources and explore additional measures needed to support financial stability and alleviate liquidity constraints for emerging markets and developing economies".

A Saudi official told Sky News the leaders will meet by teleconference to address the lack of cooperation over the virus outbreak across borders.

Leaders will discuss how to work in a concerted international way to improve global planning, coordinate rules on travel, increase production and distribution of medical equipment and most importantly share and disseminate information and expertise about the virus.

World leaders are unable to meet face to face but Saudi organisers are confident the summit can still be an effective step towards building a global response to the crisis.

Just as in international summits in more normal times, the leaders will meet and their experts and officials will meet virtually to follow up with concrete action.

Critics will ask why it is taking so long for world leaders to convene the summit, given the urgency of the situation.

Unfavourable comparisons have been drawn with the international response to the 2008-2009 financial crisis, where swift international action saved the global financial system from possible collapse.

Gordon Brown, Britain's prime minister during that crisis, last week said the response was being hampered by 'too much populist nationalism'.

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'We've had too much of America first, India first, China first. We are finding that we are connected whether we like it or not. We are finding that we are depending on each other whether we like it or not.'

Sky's Economics Editor Ed Conway tweeted this morning that in 2009, the G20 came together and agreed coordinated action to bring the world back from the brink of catastrophe.

"In the teeth of the COVID-19 crisis, which threatens even greater economic damage, the G20 agreed to….draw up an action plan," the tweet read.