The World Economic Forum announced Wednesday that its next summit in Davos would go ahead, and billed it as the "Great Reset" to remodel the global economy following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The January 2021 annual gathering of world leaders and business chiefs will take place as planned in the Swiss ski resort, with the focus on fixing long-standing problems exposed by the new coronavirus.

While bigwigs gather in the snowy Alps, in a new move, the 51st WEF summit will also link virtually to 400 cities around the world for input from a younger generation.

The WEF said the political, economic and social disruptions caused by the crisis had exposed the inadequacies of health, financial and energy systems, leaving leaders at a crossroads.

"The COVID-19 crisis has shown us that our old systems are not fit any more for the 21st century," said WEF executive chairman Klaus Schwab.

"It has laid bare the fundamental lack of social cohesion," he told a virtual event hosted from the WEF headquarters in Geneva.

"Now is the historical moment, the time, not only to fight the virus but to shape the system for the post-corona era.

"In short, we need a great reset.

"We must not miss this unique window of opportunity."

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was a chance to build more equal, inclusive and resilient economies and societies that could stand up to pandemics, climate change and other global challenges.

The great reset: Davos wants to help shape the post-virus world
The great reset: Davos wants to help shape the post-virus world AFP / FABRICE COFFRINI

"The Great Reset is a welcome recognition that this human tragedy must be a wake-up call. It is imperative that we re-imagine, rebuild, redesign, reinvigorate and rebalance our world," he said.

International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva said that 170 countries would finish 2020 with a smaller economy than they started it with, with greater debt, deficit and unemployment.

She said it was time "to turn a page, to have that history be about the great reset, not about the great reversal.

"The best memorial we can build for those who lost their lives to the pandemic is that greener, smarter, fairer world."

Meanwhile Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, said rebuilding economic prosperity had to be balanced against the natural world it depended upon.

"The threats posed by this dreadful pandemic came upon us suddenly," said the Prince of Wales, who himself caught the new coronavirus.

"The threat of climate change has been more gradual, but its devastating reality for many people and their livelihoods around the world, and its ever-greater potential to disrupt, surpasses even that of COVID-19.

"As we move from rescue to recovery, therefore we have a unique but rapidly-shrinking window of opportunity to learn lessons and reset ourselves on a more sustainable path.

"Think big and act now."