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G20 presidency calls for increased funding for COVID-19 response

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April 24 (UPI) — The Saudi presidency of the Group of 20 wealthy countries on Friday called on the international community to urgently fund an emergency response to the coronavirus as the number of infected worldwide surpassed 2.7 million.

Saudi G20 Sherpa Fahad Almubarak said in a press statement only $1.9 billion of the $8 billion target set by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board has been raised, calling on all countries, philanthropic institutions and individuals to donate to the emergency response effort.

“Global challenges demand global solutions and this is our time to stand and support the race for a vaccine and other therapeutic measures to combat COVID-19,” Almubarak said. “We commend the existing funding efforts from around the world and underscore the urgency to bridging the financing gap.”

Co-convened by the World Bank and the World Health Organization, the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board called for $8 billion in March to fund countries with weak health systems, the WHO to coordinate worldwide efforts and the development of new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines to cure COVID-19.

The call to action came as the COVID-19 death toll neared 200,000 and the number of infected exceeded 2.7 million, according to a live tracker of the virus by Johns Hopkins University.

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte extended a lockdown on the capital Manila until May 15, his spokesman Harry Roque said in a briefing aired Friday.

The so-called enhanced community quarantine was to expire April 30. Duterte also expanded the lockdown to several other provinces as the archipelago nation attempts to clamp down on the spread of the virus, which has killed 477 people in the country and sickened more than 7,000.

“If there is no deterioration, [the lockdown] will be relaxed leading to normalization,” Roque said.

Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates on Friday began to slacken restrictions placed on Dubai by opening restaurants, malls, markets and other commercial outlets to the public as well as allowing people to leave their homes during the day without a permit.

The Middle Eastern country, which has fewer than 9,000 infections and 56 deaths to the virus, began to implement the measures in March but relaxed them Friday, coinciding with the Ramadan holiday, the official Emirates News Agency reported.

The decision to reduce measures was made by the Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management, which said that despite the partial easing of restrictions on movement, public and private gatherings were still banned and those who breach the guidelines will face legal action, including fines of about $270 issued to those in public without face masks.

As it coincides with the start of Ramadan on Friday, visits with close relatives will be permitted but in gatherings of fewer than five people, the committee said.

In Indonesia, the Transport Ministry canceled all passenger travel from Friday.

“The ban will apply to all types of public and private transportation by air, sea, land and railway,” ministry official Adita Irawati said in a statement, explaining exceptions are in place for emergency vehicles and the transportation of supplies and goods.

Restrictions on land transportation will be in place until May 31, domestic and international passenger flights will be suspended until June 1 and the suspension of passenger transportation by sea will be in effect until June 8.

In China, the former epicenter of the virus, health officials on Friday reported six new cases of the virus, two of which were imported.

Its total number of infections crept up to 82,804 and its death toll stood pat at 4,632 after recording zero deaths over the previous 24 hours.

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