Thirteen countries including the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Morocco, Peru and Turkey have come together to form a Ministerial Coordination Group to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The group has also issued a declaration to maintain essential global links.
The declaration has urged countries to maintain essential global links, mainly on trade and travel. The group said it understands the the importance of maintaining the flow of goods and commerce by air, sea and land, and endorses the need for nations to cooperate with each other.
The Ministerial Coordination Group on the pandemic was convened by Canada. The group agreed on following declaration and urged other countries to adopt similar approach:
1. As the world manages the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital that we work together to save lives and livelihoods. Global cooperation is necessary to mitigate the unprecedented disruption to the global economy, trade, and travel. We must endeavour to deliver a strong and coordinated global health response including developing a vaccine and relevant treatments and to identify best practices to emerge from the crisis as a stronger, more interconnected world.
2. We commit to work with all countries to coordinate on public health, travel, trade, economic and financial measures in order to minimize disruptions and recover stronger by reinforcing global links and the multilateral system, and in support of sustainable development.
3. We recognize and commit to addressing the particular challenges faced by vulnerable countries and groups, including in Africa and Small Island Developing States, including the resilience of their health systems and access to medical supplies and personal protective equipment, and support a time-bound suspension of debt service payments for the poorest countries that request forbearance. We also recognize that women, in particular, are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and that responses must account for gender-differentiated considerations.
4. We note the importance of maintaining air, land and marine transportation links and supply chain connectivity to facilitate the return home of travellers who may be stranded, minimize disruptions, ensure the necessary flow of goods and services between countries, notably the fair, transparent, efficient and timely access to and distribution of personal protective equipment, medicine and other essential medical material as well as food and enable humanitarian workers and NGOs to pursue their indispensable work.
5. We acknowledge the importance and critical role of the scientific community in providing guidance to governments in managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
6.In this context, we will continue to promote and protect free trade and we agree that emergency measures designed to tackle COVID-19, if deemed necessary, must be targeted, proportionate, transparent and temporary, and that they do not create unnecessary barriers to trade or disruption to global supply chains, and are consistent with WTO rules.
7. We recognize with appreciation those air and sea ports that have remained open and have served as bridges to bring home stranded nationals and to support the transport of essential cargo. We express our thanks to the airlines and shipping companies, and their personnel, border and other national officials involved in this effort, that have continued to operate in exceptional circumstances.
8. Going forward, individually, bilaterally and through our participation in various global, regional and plurilateral groups, we will work with all international partners through the leadership of the UN, noting the UN’s Global Humanitarian Response Plan and the UN Supply Chain Task Force, recognizing the critical role of the WHO and its Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, as well as the WTO, WCO, ICAO and IMO to:
a. encourage key transport hubs around the world to remain open to travel, transit and cargo by air, sea and land
b. recognizing that airports and airlines are commercial operations, we will continue to work closely with our own domestic airports and airlines to ensure sufficient capacity to allow stranded travellers to return and to preserve vital connectivity
c . encourage airlines and relevant authorities to maintain key travel routes to support these efforts to ensure as many stranded nationals as possible are able to return by commercial means as well as to permit essential travel, including essential business travel focused on minimizing the social and economic impact of COVID-19
d. underline the importance of exchanging best practices and work towards a common approach in support of nationals travelling home
e. minimize barriers to the operation of special flights where commercial routes are not possible and allow maximum flexibility for internal domestic travel to allow stranded nationals to reach airports; consistent with applicable domestic and international laws and public health directives, including self-isolation and other requirements upon return
f. agree to a joint commitment, in accordance with existing national laws and policies, to visa or status extensions, as appropriate, for individuals who are unable to leave because of COVID-19 related travel restrictions
g. agree to support stranded foreign nationals and offer them access to essential health-care services while fighting against discrimination and targeting based on ethnicity
h. encourage sea ports to remain open for cargo operations and the continued availability of shipping services to support the transport of goods, including essential supplies, wherever they are needed
i. taking into account the exceptional circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic for the air transport industry, encourage airlines to facilitate the return of stranded passengers, including through rebooking with alternative airlines if possible, and to assist passengers who want to cancel their trips or postpone them
j. encourage our private sectors, working in close collaboration with health and public safety authorities, to continue their efforts to retool, scale up and repurpose manufacturing toward critical needs in order to meet national and global demands, including of vulnerable groups and countries, and begin consideration of improving efficiencies and the reliability of global and national production and distribution following the immediate crisis
k. pool scientific resources and efforts, promote research and share findings, including through the WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, GAVI and the Vaccine Alliance and welcome the launching of an International Alliance for COVID-19 Vaccine, to work towards developing a vaccine, therapeutics and enhanced testing kits to be available to all countries
l. identify best practices and lessons learned to assist all countries in recovering from this crisis.
9. Domestically, we commit to engaging our respective relevant national authorities on these issues. Internationally, we will remain in regular contact and encourage other states to support this initiative.