Saudi Arabia's King Salman, Saudi Arabia, King Salman
Saudi Arabia's King Salman. Source: Twitter/G20

The novel coronavirus taught the world a few things: the importance of hygiene, the speed at which a virus can become a global pandemic, the positive effects of social distancing, and the value of technology. 

If technology hadn't been around, the world would've probably come to a halt. Education wouldn't have continued at a somewhat normal rate, employees wouldn't have been able to work remotely, and humans all around the world wouldn't have been able to keep in touch with one another on an hourly (or even minute) basis. 

And certainly, Saudi Arabia's King Salman wouldn't have thought to host a video summit with global leaders. And without technology, the king wouldn't have been able to host an emergency video summit to discuss the coronavirus pandemic with those leaders. 

On Thursday, the Saudi king will chair an emergency virtual meeting with G20 leaders in hopes of putting forward a set of policies that would protect people and safeguard the global economy. "King Salman will chair the meeting to advance a coordinated global response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its human and economic implications," a statement read. 

Saudi Arabia, which currently holds the G20 presidency, called for the "virtual summit" after the group had been criticized for its slow response to address the global pandemic. 

The G20 members will be joined by leaders from other affected countries including Spain, Jordan, Singapore, and Switzerland. International organizations such as the United Nations (UN), World Bank Group (WBG), the World Health Organization (WHO), World Trade Organization (WTO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Financial Stability Board (FSB), the International Labour Organization (ILO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) will also be joining in on the virtual conference. 

The G20 "is the central forum for international cooperation on financial and economic issues."

​​​​​​​The G20 members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, ​Republic of Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union (EU)​.

During a separate video conference this week, G20 finance ministers and central bankers agreed to develop an "action plan" to respond to the outbreak, which the IMF expects will lead to a global recession.

Agathe Demarais, global forecasting director at the Economist Intelligence Unit, said the G20 countries' only option to support growth might be a fiscal stimulus, especially when considering monetary policy constraints, according to Reuters.

However, that could increase the risk of a debt crisis, with a "devastating effect on global growth."

"This is something that G20 leaders will have in mind if they go for stimulus packages," Demarais added.

What has Saudi Arabia been doing to restrict the spread of COVID-19?

The G20 summit call comes days after Saudi Arabia suspended all private sector work - with a few exceptions - for a 15-day period amid the ongoing pandemic.

Last week, The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development announced that private sector employees should not be working from their firms' offices for the next two weeks. In cases where office presence is mandatory, employees who do come in cannot exceed 40 percent of the total number of workers at the firm's headquarters. If more than 50 people must be present, a check-in point will be required at the entrance where temperatures will be taken and COVID-19 symptoms will be assessed (if there are any). 

Just days prior to that decision, Saudi Arabia temporarily suspended government work and ordered public sector employees to stay home for a period of 16 days. Those who work in health, security, and the military were exempted from the decision. The decision came into effect on March 16. 

The kingdom has also closed malls, restaurants, coffee shops, stores, parks, and gardens. Only supermarkets, pharmacies, and food delivery companies will be allowed to operate normally during this period. 

Last week, Saudi Arabia also said mosques would no longer open for neither the customary daily prayers nor the Friday congregations. The country has also suspended all international flights - starting March 15 and effective for two weeks - to contain the outbreak.