This year's Group of 20 leaders' summit, slated for Nov. 21 and 22, will be held online due to the coronavirus pandemic, the government of Saudi Arabia said Monday.

The 15th G-20 summit will be held under the presidency of King Salman bin Abdulaziz and will focus on "protecting lives and restoring growth" in the fight against the global pandemic, according to the Saudi government, which hands over the chair of the G-20 to Italy at the end of November.

Officials hoist flags of the Group of 20 nations on June 28, 2019, at the Intex Osaka convention center. (Kyodo)  

The event was originally scheduled to be held in Riyadh to mark the kingdom's first hosting of a G-20 summit, but the Saudi government opted to go virtual, building on the success of the leaders' summit video teleconference in March and over 100 virtual working group and ministerial meetings, it said.

So far, about 33 million cases of novel coronavirus infections have been confirmed worldwide with about 1 million global deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The oil-rich kingdom has enforced strict antivirus measures and scaled down this year's Hajj pilgrimage in July by banning international visitors from traveling to Mecca.

As of Sunday, there have been 330,000 cases of coronavirus infection in the Middle East country.

According to the Saudi government, the upcoming summit will also focus on developing international actions to provide opportunities for all people by empowering them and protecting this planet, "whilst harnessing the potential of innovation to shape new frontiers."

Saudi Arabia, the first Arab nation to hold the G-20 presidency, has been pushing forward social reforms under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the King Salman's son, such as granting greater rights to women.

But the country, which enforces strict Islamic law, has also faced international condemnation over its human rights record, particularly for the death of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

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