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G20 health ministers acknowledge health systems' vulnerability to pandemics: statement

RIYADH (Reuters) - Health ministers from the Group of 20 major economies discussed weaknesses in health systems that made the world vulnerable to the coronavirus outbreak and other pandemics, a statement said after a virtual meeting on Sunday.

The Saudi G20 secretariat said that the ministers shared their national experiences, addressed necessary actions to improve preparedness and discussed systemic weaknesses exposed by the pandemic.

“Health Ministers recognised that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted systemic weaknesses in health systems,” the statement said. “It also has shown vulnerabilities in the global community’s ability to prevent and respond to pandemic threats.”

The statement said the ministers adopted preventative measures to contain the pandemic, but did not elaborate.

A planned virtual news conference was cancelled as Saudi Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah had to attend “an urgent COVID-19 KSA (Saudi) taskforce meeting”. Saudi Arabia is the current chair of the G20.

In opening remarks provided via video to media, Rabiah said urgent actions included the need for collaboration and engagement of global organisations for coordinated responses to the novel coronavirus pandemic, with an emphasis on supporting countries in need, and investing in research and discovery to produce technology, tools, vaccines and therapies.

He also referred to the creation of a global task force to respond to pandemics, an innovation hub for knowledge sharing to improve value in health and a patient safety leaders group to provide shared platforms aimed at reducing patient safety risks.

Leaders from Spain, Singapore, Jordan and Switzerland were invited to attend Sunday’s meeting as well as international and regional organisations including the World Health Organization and the World Bank, an earlier G20 statement said.

Reporting by Dahlia Nehme and Marwa Rashad; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous and Raya Jalabi; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Grant McCool

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