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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on March 28)

All News 09:00 March 28, 2020

United front against virus
Global cooperation key to fighting pandemic

The leaders of the Group of 20 major economies have promised to step up international cooperation in fighting the coronavirus pandemic. During a video summit Thursday, they agreed to present a united front against COVID-19 ― a common threat to global public health. They also committed to do whatever it takes to minimize the negative economic impact of the highly contagious virus.

The G20 summit was timely and appropriate as more than 500,000 infections have been confirmed worldwide with the death toll rising to over 20,000 since the novel coronavirus was first reported in Wuhan, China, last December. The pandemic has been upending lives of people around the world and disrupting global supply chains with the world economy coming to a grinding halt.

Against the backdrop, global solidarity and collaboration are crucial to overcome the public health emergency and mitigate the economic fallout from COVID-19. That is why the leaders adopted a joint statement after discussing how to respond to the rapid spread of the pathogen and cope with the economic contagion. Most of all, they should work together to win the battle with the infectious disease and regain financial and economic stability.

Now they are required to put their commitment into action. This is easier said than done. But if they are only long on words and short on action, the world can never defeat the pandemic. So it is important for the world leaders to make detailed action plans and to make good on the pledges that were made during the summit. For this reason, they agreed to hold a health ministers' meeting in April to share each nation's best practices and develop a set of G20 urgent actions to jointly combat the virus.

It is encouraging for the leaders to promise to strengthen the mandate of the World Health Organization (WHO) in coordinating the international fight against COVID-19. In fact, the WHO has come under attack for its slow action to warn the world of the serious nature of the virus at the early stage. It has also invited the ire of the people for declaring the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic belatedly on March 11. Therefore it is necessary to overhaul the functions of the U.N. health agency.

Also at stake is how to make coordinated efforts to develop vaccines, share each country's experience and expertise, and jointly mobilize resources to effectively fight the pandemic. The world also must cooperate in helping leaders of developing countries protect their people from the virus.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has pledged to share his country's "successful response model" with other countries. He stressed the importance of the three principles of "openness, transparency and democracy." The Korean model has drawn international attention for its effective response to COVID-19 which is focused on quick and accurate testing capacity and thorough quarantine measures.

In addition to battling the virus, the world should take collective action to fend off the economic damage arising from the pandemic. Countries across the globe need to go beyond their self-interests and differences to overcome the looming economic and financial crisis. The G20 leaders must show their leadership to ride out the coronavirus disaster as soon as possible.
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