CARBIS BAY, England – Group of Seven leaders brought pledges to share vaccine doses and make a fairer global economy Friday to a seaside summit in England, where British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the coronavirus pandemic should not be allowed to leave a “lasting scar” on the world.
The wealthy nations' leaders were all smiles and unity as Johnson greeted them on the freshly raked sand of Carbis Bay, but they jostled over who was doing most to help the world's poorer nations fight COVID-19.
Recovery from the pandemic was set to dominate their discussions, and members of the wealthy democracies club committed to sharing at least 1 billion vaccine shots with struggling countries.
That includes a pledge from U.S. President Joe Biden to share 500 million doses, and a promise from Johnson for an additional 100 million shots.
Host Britain said the G-7 will also announce a package of measures aimed at reducing the chances of another pandemic. The U.K. government said the grandly titled “Carbis Bay Declaration” will aim for a 100-day goal to develop vaccines, treatments and diagnostics for future disease and to bolster surveillance for new illnesses.
The group will also pledge to strengthen the World Health Organization, which former President Donald Trump pulled out of and Biden rejoined.
Johnson said the goal of the measures was “to make sure that never again will we be caught unawares.”
Opening three days of talks in Cornwall, southwest England, Johnson warned that world leaders must not repeat errors made over the past 18 months – or those made in the recovery from the 2008 global financial crisis.
“It is vital that we don't repeat the mistake of the last great crisis, the last great economic recession in 2008, when the recovery was not uniform across all parts of society,” Johnson said after leaders posed for a formal “family photo” by the sea.
“And I think what's gone wrong with this pandemic, and what risks being a lasting scar, is that I think the inequalities may be entrenched,” the British prime minister added.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she hoped the summit would show the world “we're not just thinking of ourselves.”
Macron sought to underscore that, noting that France had already shipped vaccine doses to the world's poor – and gently chiding countries that have not by urging in a tweet for “clear goals” and “concrete commitments.”
On Friday, Queen Elizabeth II – Britain's biggest global star – traveled from Windsor Castle near London for a reception with the leaders and their spouses at the Eden Project, a futuristic botanical garden housed inside domes that features the world's largest indoor rainforest.
The 95-year-old monarch drew laughter from her guests as she chided them during a group photo session: “Are you supposed to be looking as if you're enjoying yourself?”