More than 20 world leaders came together Tuesday to call for a “new international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response” that would help build the cooperation needed to manage inevitable future public health crises, though a number of crucial countries are absent from the list of signatories, including China which has come under global fire for its lack of cooperation throughout this pandemic and the SARS pandemic that preceded it.
In a joint article published in newspapers around the world, the leaders including the U.K.’s Boris Johnson, Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Korea’s Moon Jae-in said the Covid-19 pandemic has been the biggest challenge to world order since World War II.
Twenty three countries backed the idea of the international treaty, as well as World Health Organization chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and European Council president Charles Michel.
The group said future pandemics and health emergencies are inevitable and proposed a treaty to foster international cooperation akin to the global settlement that emerged from World War II.
The treaty would see international cooperation on data sharing, improved alert systems, and the research, development and distribution of vaccines, protective equipment and other essential medical supplies, as well as underscore the “One Health” approach to public health that recognizes the interconnected nature of human, animal and environmental health.
The leaders, a number of whom are involved in public spats over vaccine supplies, also highlighted immunization as a “global public good” and underscored the need for equitable access, acknowledging that there “is more we can do to promote global access” than current efforts.
Far more countries will need to come on board to make such a treaty effective at tackling future pandemics, especially given the potential for problematic diseases to emerge in just a single location and spread globally. History has shown time and again that poor surveillance and inadequate responses in one country imperils the entire world. Disease surveillance from the U.S., India and Russia would all be particularly important given their geographic and demographic size as well as political clout but outbreaks can emerge anywhere. Also conspicuously absent is China, which would be especially important in making an international framework work. China has come under fire for its early handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, especially its lack of transparency regarding early cases of the disease and for obstructing investigations into the origins of the novel coronavirus. China’s apparent failure to learn from the earlier SARS pandemic, which shared many characteristics with Covid-19, including allegations of cover-ups, serves to underscore the need for international cooperation.
Indonesia, one of the signatories, came under heavy fire in 2007 for refusing to share H5N1 bird flu samples with WHO researchers. The global community decried the move, which broke with decades of open sharing and could have severely hampered the ability of scientists to monitor the dangerous virus, which has pandemic potential should it spillover into humans. At the time, Indonesia said it would not share samples on the basis that they could be used to produce a vaccine that the country may not be able to afford..
23 countries backed the proposal: Fiji, Portugal, Romania, Britain, Rwanda, Kenya, France, Germany, Greece, Korea, Chile, Costa Rica, Albania, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, the Netherlands, Tunisia, Senegal, Spain, Norway, Serbia, Indonesia, and Ukraine.
“No single government or multilateral agency can address this threat alone,” the leaders wrote, adding: “The question is not if, but when.”
No government can address the threat of pandemics alone – we must come together (Telegraph)
Exclusive: World leaders call for pandemic treaty (Telegraph)
China Silences Critics Over Deadly Virus Outbreak (NYT)
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