Britain will collaborate with the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop an “urgently needed” system to identify new coronavirus variants quickly and track emerging diseases globally to ensure the world is never “caught unawares again”.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the plan for a new “Global Pandemic Radar” ahead of a G20 Global Health summit on Friday in Rome, where he will speak.
Johnson’s office said it would involve a network of surveillance hubs that could watch for outbreaks and share data on variants and vaccine resistance.
He is using Britain’s presidency of the G7 group to highlight the need to be prepared for future pandemics by launching an expert group to examine how the development of vaccines against future diseases can be expedited, reports Reuters.
“Tackling Covid-19 globally and ensuring we are better prepared for future health threats is an absolute priority for the UK’s G7 presidency,” Johnson said.
“The world must never be caught unawares again by a virus spreading among us unchecked. We need to build a system of disease surveillance fit for the 21st century, with real-time data sharing and rapid genomic sequencing and response.”
Britain has extensive virus-sequencing capabilities that have come to the fore as coronavirus variants increasingly raise the risk of new waves of infections.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Britain had set a strong example for pathogen surveillance and sequencing, as well as vaccine development.
“I am delighted that under PM Johnson, the UK will partner with WHO to contribute to stronger global surveillance and a safer world,” he said.
At Friday’s summit, leaders of the world’s largest economies will adopt a declaration recommending voluntary actions to boost Covid-19 vaccine production, snubbing a push from the US and some other nations on patent waivers.
Drugmakers are also set to announce they will provide large supplies of at-cost Covid-19 vaccines to poor nations this year to try to redress a global imbalance, an EU official said.
China is expected to share its views and experiences in fighting the health crisis in the global arena as President Xi Jinping will deliver a speech via video from Beijing, reports the Global Times.
At Thursday’s news briefing, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman called for the summit to bring into play the role of the G20 as an important platform of global response to the crisis and sustain its positive momentum of leading global cooperation in fighting COVID-19.
Britain will host a G7 health ministers’ summit on June 3 to 4, ahead of an in-person leaders’ summit in south-west England the following week.