WASHINGTON - The G-20 is calling on “all countries, international organizations, the private sector, philanthropic institutions, and individuals” to contribute to its funding efforts to fight COVID-19, setting an $8 billion goal.
An international forum for the governments and central bank governors of 19 nations and the European Union, the G-20 already has raised $1.9 billion, it said Friday. Saudi Arabia, the current holder of the G-20 presidency, contributed $500 million.
“Global challenges demand global solutions, and this is our time to stand and support the race for a vaccine and other therapeutic measures to combat COVID-19,” Saudi G-20 Sherpa Fahad Almubarak said. “We commend the existing funding efforts from around the world and underscore the urgency to bridging the financing gap.”
Britain says it has performed the first human trial of a coronavirus vaccine in Europe.
Two volunteers were injected Thursday in the city of Oxford, where a university team developed the vaccine in less than three months. Hundreds of other volunteers will be injected with the trial vaccine, and the same number will get a vaccine for meningitis so the results can be compared. Volunteers will not know which vaccine they are getting.
The trial offers new hope just as an antiviral drug proved ineffective against coronavirus on patients in China. In a randomized trial, Remdesivir, a drug made by California-based Gilead Sciences, did not show any benefits for COVID-19 patients, and it failed to reduce the presence of the virus in their bloodstreams.
The United States conducted the first vaccine test in March in Seattle, Washington. Canada, Russia and other countries also are working on developing a vaccine, but experts say even if a successful one is developed soon, manufacturing and distribution would take a longer.
Studies also have shown the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine is not effective in treating the virus and could, in fact, endanger COVID-19 patients. U.S. President Donald Trump has touted the drug as an effective “game-changer” in treating the disease. On Thursday, he denied having changed his opinion.
“We had a lot of very good results, and we had some results that perhaps aren’t so good, I don’t know. I just read about one,” Trump said at the daily briefing.
The president also said he may extend social distancing guidelines beyond May 1 if he doesn't feel the country is in a safe place.
At noon Friday, Trump is scheduled to sign the $484 billion relief package that passed the House of Representatives on Thursday. The package was approved by the Senate earlier this week and would secure additional support for small business loans, help hospitals and expand COVID-19 testing.
With no proven remedy for the coronavirus, health officials worldwide are recommending protective measures such as hygiene, social distancing and wearing masks and gloves. But people in many places are growing tired of restrictions, even as the number of cases grows.
Several European countries have seen a decrease in new cases and are preparing to gradually reopen businesses and ease restrictions.
Some U.S. states are making similar plans. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is allowing some businesses to re-open Friday. Politicians and public health officials urged Kemp to reconsider, but Trump supported Kemp’s move. At Thursday’s coronavirus briefing, however, the president said he “wasn’t happy” with Kemp who has given the green light for tattoo parlors, hair salons, gyms, bowling alleys and spas to open Friday. Some Georgia business owners say it is too early to open and will not open their businesses Friday, despite facing financial collapse.
There are at least 2.7 million cases of the virus worldwide and more than 190,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center in the U.S. state of Maryland.
In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prince Charles were among those who were infected but recovered.
In the United States, Sen. Elizabeth Warren reported Thursday that her eldest brother died from the disease on Tuesday. Warren was a former contender in the Democratic run for the presidency.
The Australian government called on G-20 countries to push for the phasing out of so-called wildlife wet markets, which many consider a health risk for humans, as well as for animals.
The coronavirus has had a devastating effect on the global economy, but the International Monetary Fund and other organizations warn that developing countries will be the worst hit.
The United Nations food agency projects that some 265 million people could experience acute hunger this year, twice as many as last year.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on governments to ensure health care is available to all people and that economic aid packages help those most affected.