World leaders pledge $7.4bn to coronavirus research fund

By Javier Albisu

Brussels, May 4 (efe-epa).- A conference of world leaders with the notable absence of the United States on Monday pledged $7.4billion to a shared coronavirus fund.

The drive had hoped to raise $7.5bn but Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission and host of the international videoconference, said it was a “defining moment for the global community.”

“At a time when we’re sitting further apart from usual the world has shown that it is standing closer together than ever before.

“In the space of just a few hours we have collectively pledged €7.4bn euros ($8.07bn) for vaccine, diagnostics and treatment.

“All this money will help kick-start unprecedented global cooperation.”

Some 53 percent of the fund will go toward developing future vaccines, 26 percent to researching new medicines and 20 percent for developing tests.

The EU announced its own contribution of 1 billion euros.

Japan’s government contributed 760 million euros to the fund, Germany 525 million, France 500 million, Italy 150 million, Spain 125 million and Portugal 10 million. Israel gave 60 million euros and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation allocated 91 million.

Before the event, EU sources said one of the aims had been to create an alliance for a period of two years that would allow for the pooling of scientific knowledge and the creation of new international institutions and organizations.

Although the donors were not required to forfeit intellectual property, Brussels hopes that the project can be launched at a universal level.

The conference consisted of a series of small videos from around 60 heads of government and state as well as leaders of international institutions.

The US’s absence was conspicuous and China’s participation was discreet as it chose to use its ambassador in Brussels and did not confirm any concrete contribution.

“This is exactly the kind of leadership the world needs today,” United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres said, adding that the initial sum would, however, need to be expended to be spread around the world.

French President Emmanuel Macron praised the fact the vaccine would not belong to an individual but rather “everybody.”

Boris Johnson, the United Kingdom’s prime minister, said no single pharmaceutical company was capable of carrying out such a plan while Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s prime minister, said: “United, we are much stronger than the virus.”

Leaders from South Korea, Norway, Mexico, Finland and the World Bank also took part in the conference.

Celebrities are also getting involved in the fund, such as Portuguese football manager José Mourinho and American singer Madonna, who is contributing $1 million.

The challenge of finding a vaccine is immense. The previous record in the process of developing an immunization, from clinical trials to authorization, stands at four years and was achieved in 1967. Besides, no-one has ever come up with a human vaccine against the coronavirus.

There are certain elements of hope, such as the global concentration of resources in the campaign against Sars-Cov-2 and the fact that we have access to more advanced technologies.

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