G-20 foreign ministers discuss easing travel restrictions amid gloomy global economy due to Covid-19

RIYADH (AFP) – Group of 20 foreign ministers had sought international cooperation over easing travel restrictions and reopening borders, as months of coronavirus shutdowns exert a drag on the global economy.

National shutdowns of varying intensity and duration have taken a toll on livelihoods around the globe as businesses are shuttered, revenues plunge and millions are forced out of work.

“During the meeting, foreign ministers acknowledged the importance of opening borders, uniting families, and promoting measures to allow the economy to thrive,” the G-20 group said in a joint statement.

On Thursday (Sept 3), the ministers also discussed the “importance of coordinating precautionary measures” across borders to protect lives and livelihoods, added the statement following a virtual meeting hosted by Saudi Arabia.

The oil-rich kingdom, which has suspended international travel for months in a bid to limit the spread of the virus, holds the G-20 presidency this year.

“Reopening borders, in accordance with all the protective measures… will help our economies to thrive, people to prosper, and will of course bring hope for humanity,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan was quoted as saying in the statement.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said concerns were growing that the current travel restrictions “could outlast the immediate crisis”.

He urged the G-20 ministers to agree on common criteria to lift the restrictions based on a scientific approach.

In his remarks at the meeting, he also implored the ministers to boost investment to support safe travel, including measures to enhance testing and tracing.

The meeting comes after a raft of recent economic data, from India to Europe, laid bare the toll from lockdowns as nations try to keep a lid on an illness that has killed more than 850,000 people and infected over 25 million.

New Delhi on Monday reported that Asia’s third-largest economy suffered a historic 23.9 per cent contraction between April and June amid hefty restrictions on businesses.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s economy, the biggest in Latin America, contracted by a record 9.7 per cent in the second quarter of the year.

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