Coronavirus: World leaders pledge billions for vaccine fight

(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –More than $8bn (£6.5bn) has been pledged to help develop a coronavirus vaccine and fund research into the diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

Some 40 countries and donors took part in an online summit hosted by the EU.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the money would help kickstart unprecedented global co-operation.

She said it showed the true value of unity and humanity, but warned much more would be needed in the days ahead.

In total, more than 30 countries, along with UN and philanthropic bodies and research institutes, made donations.

Donors also included pop singer Madonna, who pledged €1m ($1.1m), said Ms von der Leyen, who set out the Brussels-led initiative on Friday.

The European Commission pledged $1bn to fund research on a vaccine. Norway matched the European Commission’s contribution, and France has pledged €500m, as have Saudi Arabia and Germany. Japan pledged more than $800m.

The US and Russia did not take part. China, where the virus originated in December, was represented by its ambassador to the European Union.

Of the money raised, $4.4bn will go on vaccine development, some $2bn on the search for a treatment and $1.6bn for producing tests, the EU said.

In her opening remarks at the summit, Ms von der Leyen said everyone must chip in to finance “a truly global endeavour”.

“I believe 4 May will mark a turning point in our fight against coronavirus because today the world is coming together,” she said.

“The partners are many, the goal is one: to defeat this virus.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, another co-host of the conference, said the “more we pull together” in sharing expertise, “the faster our scientists will succeed” in developing a vaccine.

Mr Johnson, who spent three nights in intensive care with Covid-19, was to confirm the UK’s pledge of £388m for vaccine research, testing and treatment during the conference.

Along with the European Commission, the conference is being co-hosted by the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway and Saudi Arabia.

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