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Saudi Arabia committed to global efforts to combat COVID-19: Foreign minister

LONDON: Saudi Arabia is committed to collective action and cooperation with other countries to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan told the UN on Friday.

During a speech at a virtual special session of the UN General Assembly focused on the global response to COVID-19, Prince Faisal praised the UN’s efforts to fight the virus.

“This year has been an exceptional one by any standards, during which the world faced an unprecedented common challenge represented by the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, a pandemic that swept our world and claimed the lives of nearly a million and a half people in less than a year, and affected 54 million people around the world,” the prince said.

“It did not differentiate between man or woman, or between old and young, and (it) has inflicted severe economic, health and human damage on the world, causing the cessation of all ways and aspects of life, and our peoples and countries are still suffering from the negative effects it caused and still causes,” he added.

Prince Faisal said that, despite scientific and technological progress, the pandemic had revealed the “weakness and fragility of the global system in the face of a virus that cannot be seen with the naked eye,” and which acted as “an alarm that reminds us to work together side by side to overcome our narrow differences and interests,” he said.

“We must work to coordinate a unified international response that enables us to combat this (pandemic) and its health and humanitarian threats, restore global financial and economic stability, and set plans in place to achieve strong, sustainable, balanced and comprehensive growth that prevents an economic recession similar to the Great Depression,” he added.

The foreign minister highlighted the Kingdom’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic during its G20 presidency, including holding an exceptional summit in March during which Saudi Arabia pledged $500 million toward fighting the virus.

He also cited a number of practical measures taken by G20 members, including pumping $11 trillion into the global economy to protect jobs and lives and to ensure continued economic recovery as well as contributing more than $21 billion to support global efforts.

Prince Faisal also said the G20 launched an initiative this year to postpone $14 billion of debt repayments for the least developed countries, until the middle of next year, meaning they could use the money instead to finance their health systems amid the crisis.

Speaking about a working vaccine against COVID-19, the prince stressed the importance of ensuring that all countries have access to a vaccine, and that it is affordable for all people, without discrimination.

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