The Prime Minister used yesterday’s G20 virtual summit to call on the governments of the world to work together on a vaccine and to distribute it to whoever needs it – supported by an additional £210 million of UK funding, the largest single donation by any country.
Whatever the critics of Brexit say, Britain is always a willing and proactive international partner, which is good because someone has to be. The G20’s Covid-19 statement concluded that a global crisis demands a global response, but leaders need to take responsibility for the palpable decline of international institutions since the financial crisis.
If anything, coronavirus has shown the comparative importance of the nation state. Borders are back up in Europe; national welfare systems have borne the cost of the lockdown. None of this is any good if countries fail to work in concert, and dictators are taking advantage of the chaos. China is looking for a propaganda victory and Russia has increased its activities in UK waters, forcing the Royal Navy to respond. It is a reminder that just as it is important to invest in the NHS in case of an emergency, so it is vital to have a strong Armed Forces in case of foreign provocation.
Roughly a third of the world is shuttered, flights have practically halted and a record 3.3 million people have filed claims for unemployment in the United States, which will have an economic ripple effect, especially in developing countries that lack the health systems necessary to cope with a pandemic.
Nations have to put aside narrow self-interest and, like the UK, put real money and leadership towards a common cause. We either work together or the consequences of this nightmare will be felt for years to come.