To date, almost 1.7 billion people across the globe have been quarantined due to coronavirus, which is nearly a quarter of the world's population. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic covered over 170 countries with more than 410,000 people infected and some 18,000 dead. Amid this, governments of various countries are taking urgent measures to contain the epidemic and introducing high-alert or emergency regimes. Russia is no exception here.
G20 leaders, who held a videoconference summit on March 26, did not stay away either. This year, G20 presidency was assumed by Saudi Arabia. It was Riyadh that initiated the emergency summit online amid the global coronavirus pandemic. Russian President Vladimir Putin took part in the "meeting" from his Novo-Ogarevo residence outside Moscow.
Despite the video conference's absolutely closed character, journalists found out that leaders of the world's major economies adopted a final statement after the coronavirus summit. This, in particular, was stated by the Russian President's Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov. Earlier, it was reported that the G20 summit would focus on coordinating actions to combat the spread of coronavirus and the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of course, it would be strange to expect this G20 summit to provide any breakthrough solutions to stop the coronavirus pandemic spread around the world overnight. But the very fact that the G20 leaders have an issue with the current coronavirus-caused crisis and have had a video conference is commendable in itself. By the way, Moscow has repeatedly stated that it considers G20, which accounts for up to 90% of global GDP, the most authoritative international forum, as compared to G7, which is receding into the background with every passing year.
It is worth noting that just before the current videoconference, a letter of appeal was distributed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres where he called on G20 leaders to help lift sanctions hindering the fight against coronavirus. According to Guterres, the sanctions are only slowing down the delivery of foodstuffs, basic necessities and medical aid to certain countries. He called the time of fighting the pandemic "a time of solidarity, not isolation". It should be pointed out that the proposal of the UN Secretary General should not come as a surprise. Due to the coronavirus, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet also called for easing sanctions against North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba and Zimbabwe.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova supported Guterres and even made a more radical proposal. "It's a good idea. I would finalize it a bit: sanctions should be imposed against those who failed to lift sanctions," she wrote on Facebook. However, the point to be emphasized here is that if the United States refuses to alleviate the sanctions regime, there won't be any significant changes in this area, because the American sanctions are the most painful and severe of all the international ones. But Washington is apparently not in a hurry to abandon its sanctions policy.
All the more so as the White House is now consumed with combating coronavirus, which has even caused the presidential race to take a back seat in the United States, with an explicit break having emerged. But the COVID-19 pandemic fight is not as successful in the United States as the White House would like it to be: as of today, the country is the world's third after China and Italy in the number of people infected (almost 66 thousand).
However, President Donald Trump, in defiance of the global trend, suddenly demanded on Tuesday that restrictions imposed earlier be lifted in the coming weeks. And this despite the growing risk that the United States, as WHO predicts, will become the new focus of the pandemic in the world, after Italy and Spain. But, according to Trump, if quarantine restrictions are protracted for months, more people are going to die as compared to the virus death toll. The White House head believes that the United States will soon restore its economic activity, and this may happen in the coming weeks already. Donald Trump is well aware that his victory in the upcoming November presidential elections largely depends on the state of the country's economy.
The question is whether the COVID-19 coronavirus will consent to this kind of narrative, as it is not going to give in and threatens a growing number of US citizens. As well as, be it noted, people in other Western democracies, primarily European. As practice shows, measures taken by authorities of such democratic "pillars" as Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy and Spain, are not rewarded – day by day, the coronavirus takes the lives of more and more citizens of these countries that are usually referred to as the Golden Billion and democratic benchmarks.
In the meantime, strict measures adopted by countries considered authoritarian in the West – China or Iran – bring certain positive results in the fight against coronavirus. The Chinese authorities, for instance, have already lifted the ban on visiting the worst-affected province of Hubei. This induced many to say that in a crisis environment the Chinese model proved much more stable than Western democracy.
Even as it stands, analysts are generally inclined to believe that the Western world model has failed to cope with the coronavirus, and the outlook is not as bright as previously thought.