By Eurasia Business News – November 22, 2020

The BRICS Group (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) has decided to allocate $ 10 billion to fight the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences. This was announced on November 17 during the summit of the “five”, held in the format of a videoconference. On the eve of the summit, the Russian Foreign Ministry explained that the funds will be distributed through the BRICS New Development Bank, which has already allocated $ 4 billion under a special loan mechanism to overcome the consequences of the pandemic.

Moscow city at night, the financial and business center in Moscow, the capital of Russia. The country chaired the 12th Summit of the BRICS, held on November 17.

The five leaders of the BRICS Group have demonstrated unanimity on the global confrontation with Covid-19, an emerging infectious disease caused by SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The readiness to work together on the development and production of vaccines against the new coronavirus was emphasized among the group members during their 12th Summit held on November 17 via videoconference. The meeting was originally scheduled to take place in Saint Petersburg from July 21 to 23, 2020 but was postponed due to the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The theme of the Meeting of the Leaders of BRICS countries was “BRICS Partnership for Global Stability, Shared Security and Innovative Growth”.

Despite the current global situation due to the spread of the Covid-19, the activities under the Russian BRICS Chairmanship in 2020 have continued. Since January 2020 more than 60 events have been organized, including via videoconferences.

Medical cooperation against COVID-19

On November 17 the Chinese President Xi Jinping recalled that while China, Russia and Brazil are already conducting the third phase of clinical trials of vaccines against Covid-19, Beijing is ready to establish cooperation with India and South Africa. 

The Russian President Vladimir Putin, in turn, announced during the summit that Russian vaccine Sputnik V against coronavirus is planned to be produced in China : 

The Russian Direct Investment Fund has concluded agreements with Indian and Brazilian partners to conduct clinical trials of the Sputnik-V vaccine, and with pharmaceutical companies in China and India on the opening of our vaccine production centres in these countries, and not only for their own needs, but also for third countries.”

Russia was the first to register a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. The drug created by the Gamaleya Institute, called Sputnik V, was tested on volunteers. Another vaccine registered in the Russian Federation, EpiVacCorona, was created at the Novosibirsk center “Vector” and will be used in vaccination campaign that should start in 2021 on a voluntary basis and free of charge for Russian citizens. The stage of post-registration studies of EpiVacCorona for 40 thousand volunteers will begin in November-December 2020. The tests will last six months.

Vladimir Putin added that China’s experience can be an example in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic :

“As everyone knows, China was the first to face this threat – the coronavirus pandemic and then demonstrated to the whole world that the fight can be successful… The result is indeed significant, clear, understandable […] this is a good example for others.”

The Russian President expressed his readiness to support the proposal made by the Chinese President to hold a BRICS symposium on traditional medicine and how it can be used in the treatment of coronavirus pneumonia :

Certainly – I think my colleagues will agree with me – we will support your proposal to hold a symposium on traditional medicine. This is extremely important, I think, especially in the current context […].

The leaders of the BRICS talked not only about the medical issues but also about the political and economic aspect of the fight against the pandemic.

China considers that it has something to share with its BRICS partners in the field of traditional medicine in the treatment of the new type of coronavirus pneumonia, appeared in December 2019. In China, a majority of Covid-19 patients would have been treated using traditional Chinese herbal medicine, with alleged positive results. 

The traditional Chinese medicine is one of the world’s oldest forms of medical practice and includes a range of treatments from herbal concoctions to acupuncture to Tai Chi. However, Western healthcare professionals remain sceptical of the usefulness of this traditional medicine.

China claims in a white paper published last June that two drugs have proven to be the best against Covid-19. First, there are Lianhua Qingwen pills made from 13 flowers and herbs. They would relieve fever, relieve coughs, help with pneumonia, and also would have a general tonic effect. They were mainly used to treat patients with mild Covid-19 symptoms.

People infected with Covid-19 have had a wide range of symptoms from mild symptoms such as fever, cough and fatigue, to severe illness such as acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Critically ill patients were also treated with Xuebijing injections. This preparation is made from the extract of five medicinal plants. It would have helped well with sepsis, prevents excessive blood clotting at high temperatures and has a good anti-inflammatory effect. These drugs have already been supplied by China to countries where the most severe epidemic situation was developing. Another traditional remedy used by China was the Jinhua Qinggan – which was developed during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak and is made of 12 components including honeysuckle, mint and liquorice.

The use of Chinese herbal medicine against Covid-19 has spread to neighbouring countries, as a research facility at Karachi University in collaboration with the Indus Hospital Research Center in Pakistan has begun in Septembeer a clinical trial of a traditional Chinese medicine to treat mild cases of Covid-19.

Nevertheless, the US National Institutes of Health said that while the Chinese traditional medicine may help with symptom relief, the overall effectiveness of against the coronavirus is inconclusive. The fact is that no international and independent testing procedure has been done on the effectiveness of the Chinese herbal medicine. The prestigious publication Nature reported in May 2020 that scientists say rigorous trial data are needed to show that remedies are safe and effective.

Last September, a World Health Organization (WHO) expert panel endorsed a protocol for herbal medicine clinical trials in Africa. The endorsed technical documents aim at empowering and developing the technical capacity of African scientists to conduct clinical trials to ensure quality, safety and efficacy of traditional medicines in line with international standards.

Billions for research against Covid-19

The BRICS members decided to allocate $ 10 billion in the fight against Covid-19 through the New Development Bank that they created in 2015 to finance infrastructure projects. The portfolio includes 62 large projects of the BRICS countries and this figure should grow in the coming months. In addition, the BRICS want to increase the size of the bank’s investment portfolio to $ 23 billion by 2021.

Five years ago, the BRICS agreed in the Ufa Declaration adopted in July 2015 to “work together to counter the spread of infectious diseases, such as new coronavirus or Ebola” and have been implementing this program by establishing over the past years an epidemic early warning system.

Political and economic cooperation

Stakeholders of the BRICS summit of November 17 discussed not only about the medical, but also about the political and economic aspect of the fight against the pandemic. 

The President of the People’s Republic of China stated that the difficult epidemiological situation plunged the world economy “into the deepest crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.” At the same time, the President Xi Jinping stressed that the post-coronavirus recovery of the global economy should not come at the expense of the environment. He reaffirmed the China’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2060 and called on all five partners to pursue a “green and low-carbon development path.” 

To stimulate economic growth, the Chinese President suggested betting on the development of new technologies. China has launched an initiative to accelerate the development of the BRICS partnership for a new industrial revolution, by sharing development opportunities with BRICS partners :

China will actively integrate into global markets, develop international cooperation in order to create more opportunities for global economic revival and development”, said the President Xi Jinping.

Two days earlier, on November 15, China led the signature of the world’s largest free-trade agreement. Indeed, a group of 15 Asia-Pacific countries, including China, Japan and Australia, signed a multilateral agreement creating the world’s largest free-trade zone, weighing for 2.2 billion people and 30% of world economic output ($ 26.2 trillion).

The meeting of November 17 gathering the leaders of the BRICS group resulted in the adoption of the BRICS economic partnership strategy for the period up to 2025

This official document defines the medium-term priorities for interaction of the BRICS members in trade, investment, finance, assistance to medium, small and micro-enterprises, digital economy and innovation, sustainable development.

In particular, the BRICS countries will work together to unlock the potential in the field of artificial intelligence, blockchain, big data and 5G networks.

The leaders of the five countries also called to not politicize the fight against the coronavirus pandemic in the world and to stay focused on the medical and scientific issues.

The Chinese President has warned that : “attempts to sow de-globalization and an economic gap under the pretext of the COVID-19 pandemic will harm both the initiator of this venture and all countries of the world.” 

The position of Beijing is that the trend towards globalization and the formation of a multipolar world would be irreversible. 

The Russian President Vladimir Putin, who chaired the BRICS summit, agreed : “It is necessary to depoliticize all the problems associated with the fight against the pandemic. I absolutely agree with you. I am sure that all colleagues will support you.”

The shared opinion among the leaders of the five BRICS fuels confidence in the cooperation against the pandemic and post-coronavirus economic recovery. 

The BRICS is a rather influential group that represents 42% of the world’s population, provides 25% of global GDP and 22% of international trade. It is possible that the BRICS approach to the most pressing issues of combating the Covid-19 pandemic will partly set the tone for the G20 summit, which will be held on November 21-22 by videoconference, chaired by Saudi-Arabia.

The BRICS became a symbol of an increasingly globalized world with economic and political power shifting from the traditional U.S./Europe axis to a wider array of countries, including some emerging markets.

The total GDP growth of the BRICS countries in 2021 is estimated at 6-7%, said Igor Shuvalov, head of VEB.RF, a Russian financial development corporation, at the financial forum of the BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism.

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