COVID Dominates G7 Meeting as World Leaders Look to End Pandemic in 2022, Prevent Next One

As world leaders gather in Cornwall, England this week, one issue will be at the forefront of their plans: Defeat the coronavirus pandemic that has crippled the world the past year and prevent it from happening again.

COVID-19 has dominated the G7 meeting that kicked off Friday. Normally cozy greetings have been substituted with awkward elbow bumps. Some leaders, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have shown up wearing face masks. After several socially distanced photos with individual attendees upon arrival, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called out, "Why don't we just do a group photo?"

But even then, attendees were spaced several feet apart for their group picture and later at the round table where they are expected to spend the day trying to hash out plans to work together on pressing global issues.

"The people of our countries now want us to be sure we are beating the pandemic together and discussing how we'll never have a repeat of what we've seen, but also that we're building back better together," Johnson said in brief opening remarks that were open to the media before the private discussions began.

"I actually think this is a meeting that genuinely needs to happen because we need to make sure we learn the lessons of the pandemic and we don't repeat some of the errors that were made."

The 2020 G7 summit, which was scheduled to be held in the United States, was canceled as COVID-19 cases surged and spread globally last summer.

"It's genuinely wonderful to see everybody in person," Johnson said. "We've all been going through the most wretched pandemic our countries have faced for our lifetimes, maybe longer—much longer."

It's President Joe Biden's first overseas trip since taking office in January. He didn't speak during the G7 opening presentation, but the White House released details to Newsweek and other reporters about his shared goal of ending the global pandemic by 2022 and preventing future ones.

"The G7+ action plan that will be agreed to by leaders in Cornwall includes vaccinating the world's most vulnerable, providing emergency supplies, bolstering world-wide economic recovery, and positioning the international community to prepare for, prevent, detect, and respond to future biological catastrophes," the White House said in the release.

COVID-19 has killed more than 600,000 people in the United States and at least 3.8 million people worldwide. The United States, after fast-tracking the development of multiple vaccines, has seen cases decline and offered vaccines to other countries as part of an effort to end the global pandemic.

According to the White House, G7 leaders are expected to agree to a four-part plan to end the pandemic. It includes accelerating vaccinations for vulnerable populations across the world through COVAX, which is leading global vaccine distribution; helping countries build the capacity to administer vaccines; ensuring countries have protective equipment and other emergency medical supplies; and boosting capacity for other countries to make their own vaccines and treatments. The American Rescue Plan that Congress approved earlier this year included $11.5 billion to help the global COVID-19 response.

"The United States remains committed to saving lives and ending the COVID-19 pandemic now," the White House said in its statement. "We look forward to the adoption of the G7+ action plan this weekend. We call on other countries and private sector partners to support this ambition."

Johnson noted that leaders also will focus on long-term recovery from the pandemic that forced shutdowns that have hit the economy.

"We need to make sure that we allow our economies to recover, and I think they have the potential to bounce back very strongly," he said. "I think the inequalities may be entrenched and we need to make sure as we recover, we need to level up and we actually [will] build back better."

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G7 leaders focus on COVID's 2022 end
As world leaders gather in Cornwall, England this week, one issue will be at the forefront of their plans: Defeat the coronavirus pandemic that has crippled the world the past year and prevent it from happening again. Above, (from left) French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, U.S. President Joe Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi attend a working session at the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, England, on June 11, 2021. Ludovic MARIN / AFP/Getty Images