Coronavirus: PM seeks world support in ‘most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes’

The prime minister will join fellow world leaders in a virtual summit later aimed at galvanising global efforts to find a vaccine for COVID-19.

Boris Johnson will urge the international community to “pull together” in what he describes as “the most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes”.

The online pledging conference, which will be attended by the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Saudi Arabia, and representatives of the EU, aims to secure more than £6bn in funding to support the global response to the coronavirus pandemic.

This will be used to support the development of treatments, tests and ultimately the mass production of a vaccine if one can be found.

Mr Johnson is expected to say: “To win this battle, we must work together to build an impregnable shield around all our people and that can only be achieved by developing and mass producing a vaccine.

“The more we pull together and share our expertise, the faster our scientists will succeed.

“The race to discover the vaccine to defeat this virus is not a competition between countries but the most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes.

“It’s humanity against the virus – we are in this together and together we will prevail.”

However, the absence of both China and the US from the virtual summit is likely to raise concerns that competition between states to secure a vaccine could hinder global efforts.

Writing in the Independent on Sunday, the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Norway said the “global challenge” required “bringing together the world’s best – and most prepared – minds to find the vaccines, treatments and therapies we need to make our world healthy again”.

They also said there should be a focus on “strengthening” health systems “with particular attention to Africa”.

“This is our generation’s duty and we know we can make this happen”, they added.

The conference will also be supported by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as the Wellcome Trust.

A total of 28,446 people have died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Saturday.

Mr Johnson is now not expected to set out a “road map” on how the UK will exit lockdown until Sunday – three days after the government must review the current restrictions.

Ministers have been under pressure to explain their exit strategy but have so far resisted the calls – warning that to do so risks undermining the message to stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus.

However, on Sunday Michael Gove said that some social distancing measures would remain in place until a vaccine has been developed but that the government would seek to restore people’s lives to “as close to normal as possible”.

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