Saudi Health Minister: We have allocated half a billion dollars for COVID-19 research

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Saudi Arabia has allocated half a billion dollars for vaccine research, said Kingdom’s Minister of Health Dr. Tawfiq al-Rabiah during a G20 roundtable discussion on Friday entitled “G20 to protect people’s lives.”

He participated along with Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Wasil, the Saudi Permanent Representative in Geneva, Abdulaziz Al-Rasheed the Assistant Minister for International Affairs and Financial Policies at the Saudi Ministry of Finance, Guy Ryder the Director-General of the ILO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom the Director General For the World Health Organization, Dr. Seth Barkley the CEO of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization and Mr.Gian Lonrenzo Cornado the Italian Permanent Representative in Geneva.

“The world needs to invest in more resilient systems that will withstand any [pandemic] that we may endure in the future so that we never witness those losses again.”

On a national level, Saudi Arabia has proactively undertaken unprecedented measures to contain the outbreak of COVID-19 to show that people’s health and safety is always put first, said the Saudi Health minister.

Read more: Saudi Arabia will be ‘one of the first’ to procure coronavirus vaccine: KSRelief head

The Saudi Health minister emphasized that his ministry had introduced new digital applications utilized to leverage quarantine and monitor cases to ensure the safety of all and the general public health, especially during this year’s Hajj.

Top priority is protecting lives

Abdulaziz Al-Rasheed, the Assistant Minister for International Affairs and Financial Policies at the Saudi Ministry of Finance, said that the Kingdom has placed at the top of its priorities to protect lives and the economy from the pandemic.

“There’s no denying that 2020 has been one of the most challenging years for all of us, families, businesses, and governments. Beyond the health concerns, the social and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be significant. Hence I would like to focus my remarks on the G20 efforts to support the global economy and response measures to combat COVID-19”, Al-Rasheed added.

Al-Rasheed added that the G20 summit has committed to specific actions to drive forward international economic cooperation in health, economy, and financial responses, including international support to countries in need.

“As part of this work, G20 launched its historic service mission initiative to provide the most vulnerable countries with urgent and immediate liquidity relief from official bilateral creditors. The initiative can provide US$14 billion in 2020 alone from official bilateral creditors for 73 eligible countries enabling them to strengthen their response to the pandemic and its social and economic impact,” Al-Rasheed concluded.

“We are all still struggling with an unprecedented crisis. The impact on employment remains daunting, indeed. Data indicates there’s an equivalent of 225 million full-time jobs that were lost in G20 countries alone. Unfortunately, the short term outlook is still bleak, the situation does not stand to improve by the end of this year given the impact of the new lockdowns in many countries”., says Guy Ryder, the Director-General of the ILO

“I want first to congratulate Saudi Arabia’s outstanding skillful and agile leadership in an extraordinarily challenging situation switching to virtual events and adapting the G 20 priorities rapidly to reflect the new circumstances.”, Ryder added.

Dr. Seth Barkley, the CEO of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, said that the world could not afford to have another epidemic.

“Other diseases need to remain under control, and the best tool we have is vaccination. Once again, we are only safe unless we are all safe,” Barkley added.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom, the Director-General for the World Health Organization, congratulated Saudi Arabia on the G20 presidency, adding that it has not been an easy year and that the Saudi G20 presidency has been quick to adapt to the changing environment.

“WHO is looking forward to participating in tomorrow’s leader summit.”, Director-General Adhamom added.

Mr.Gian Lonrenzo Cornado, the Italian Permanent Representative in Geneva, also thanked the Saudi presidency of the G20 for hosting this important event.

“In 2020, one of the most challenging years in decades, the G20 Saudi presidency has confronted problems of unprecedented scale. Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to contribute. Italy is honored to build on your rich legacy to advance our common agenda in 2021.”, Cornado added.

G20 Riyadh Summit

Saudi Arabia holds the 2020 presidency of the G20, which rotates among members, and will be hosting the G20 summit across Saturday November 21 and Sunday November 22.

Due to the coronavirus, this year’s Riyadh summit is being held virtually, with leaders and ministers attending via webcam.

The build-up events, ranging from Women 20 to Business 20, have also taken place virtually.

Addressing the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic is top of the agenda this year, as countries try to rebuild from the devastating economic impact of the virus.

The environment has also featured, with the looming threat of climate change everpresent on the agenda.

This year’s agenda also has a sharper focus on culture than previous years, with culture ministers pledging to support the $2.3 trillion cultural economy in a meeting on November 4.

Read more: G20 Riyadh summit taking place under exceptional circumstances: Saudi Arabia's FM

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