Saudi Arabia convenes online G20 meeting to talk coronavirus

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - World leaders began online crisis talks on Thursday on the coronavirus pandemic that has forced 3 billion people into lockdown and claimed more than 21,000 lives.

With the disease tearing around the globe at a terrifying pace, warnings are multiplying over its economic consequences and experts say it could cause more damage than the Great Depression.

King Salman said the world’s biggest economies must take firm measures on several fronts to combat coronavirus outbreak.

“We are holding this meeting because of our responsibility as leaders of the largest economies in the world, to confront the pandemic that requires us to take firm measures at various levels, as this pandemic continues to cause a loss of life and suffering to many states,” he said. “We must coordinate a unified response.

A police officer stands at the Qasr El Nil street during the first day of a two-week night-time curfew which was ordered by the Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease, in Cairo, Egypt. Reuters

A view of an empty street with the Liberation Tower seen in the background, in Kuwait City. EPA

Iraqis use an anti-riot water-cannon vehicle to spray disinfecting liquid in the streets of the centre of the southern city of Basra. AFP

Palestinian children play at the al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City amid the coronavirus pandemic. AFP

An employee of the Palestinian health ministry sprays disinfectant on a worker crossing back from Israel at the checkpoint of Tarqumiya, near the West Bank town of Hebron. EPA

A shop owner offers perfume as a disinfectant to a customer at his shop in Istanbul, Turkey. EPA

Employees disinfect streets and shops inside Istanbul's famous Grand Bazaar to prevent the spread of coronavirus. EPA

Lutfiye Yesilbas, an 89-year-old Turkish woman who lives alone in her home lowers her basket as her neighbour waits to take it at Kadikoy, in Istanbul. AFP

An employee of the Palestinian health ministry collects a swab sample from a worker crossing back from Israel at the checkpoint of Tarqumiya, near the West Bank town of Hebron. EPA

Iraqi coronavirus patients rest at a special ward at the Hakim Hospital in Najaf. AFP

A lion and a bear are seen in a closed zoo in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq. Reuters

A man sorts donations for families in need in the central Iraqi holy city of Najaf. AFP

People stand in a line to buy bread after Jordan announced it would allow people to go on foot to buy groceries in neighborhood shops, in Amman, Jordan. Reuters

The Giza pyramids necropolis on the southwestern outskirts of the Egyptian capital Cairo is pictured empty after the site closed to the general public. AFP

“The G20 must send a strong signal to regain confidence in the world economy,” he added

King Salman urged G20 leaders to offer a "helping hand" to developing nations and said the body's priority should be to guarantee the availability of basic medical supplies.

King Salman spoke via videoconference to world leaders that included Sheikh , Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

Ahead of the meeting, Sheikh Mohammed said that he expects the deliberations “to result in effective international measures”.

Riyadh said early on Wednesday that King Salman called the meeting to “advance a co-ordinated global response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its human and economic implications.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for the world to act together to halt the spread.

"Covid-19 is threatening the whole of humanity," he said. "Global action and solidarity are crucial. Individual country responses are not going to be enough."

The global lockdown – which also took in India's huge population this week – tightened further Thursday as Russia announced it was grounding all international flights, while Moscow's mayor ordered the closure of cafes, shops and parks.

Tokyo's millions of citizens have been told to stay home and tourism-dependent Thailand has shuttered its borders.

Economists say the restrictions imposed around the world could cause the most violent recession in recent history.

"The G20 economies will experience an unprecedented shock in the first half of this year and will contract in 2020 as a whole," ratings agency Moody's said.

Unemployment rates are expected to soar around the world - as much as 30 per cent in the US - according to James Bullard, president of the St Louis Federal Reserve.

A record 3.3 million people filed for unemployment benefits in America last week as the crisis started to impact businesses.

Updated: March 26, 2020 05:22 PM

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