G20 leaders must help close a funding gap to buy vaccines, drugs and tests to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, a letter from South Africa's president, Norway's prime minister, and the heads of the World Health Organization and European Commission said.
The letter, seen by Reuters, was sent ahead of the Group of 20's virtual summit at the weekend in Riyadh organised by Saudi Arabia, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the club of rich nations and big emerging powers.
"A commitment by G20 leaders at the G20 summit in Riyadh to invest substantially in the ACT (Access to Covid-19 Tools) Accelerator's immediate funding gap of US $4.5 billion will immediately save lives, lay the groundwork for mass procurement and delivery of Covid-19 tools around the world, and provide an exit strategy out of this global economic and human crisis," it said.
The letter also called on G20 leaders to commit jointly to "a proportion of future stimulus" spending on the tools, which are particularly aimed at securing supplies for lower income countries.
The signatories were South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission.
"Engaging finance ministers now to actually raise all the money that we need, not only the urgent money needed for 2020 but actually make sure that we are fully funding the total work of the ACT Accelerator is so important," Dag Inge Ulstein, Norway's minister of international development, told Reuters in Geneva.
"It's the next weeks that will be very, very crucial," he said.
The facility set up by the WHO and the GAVI vaccine group has exceeded an interim target of raising more than $2 billion to buy and distribute Covid-19 shots for poorer countries, but said last week it still needed more.
Roughly $28 billion is needed to fund fully the procurement and distribution of vaccines, drugs and tests, which von der Leyen said last week was equivalent to "the same sum the transport sector and the global tourism sector lose in just two days of lockdown."