UK at UN to call for global unity against pandemics

Agence France-Presse . London | Published: 22:45, Sep 26,2020

 
 

British prime minister Boris Johnson on Saturday will urge world leaders to overcome divisions and set out a ‘five-point plan’ to prevent future pandemics during an address to the UN General Assembly.

Johnson, whose country has been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, will also announce new funding to international vaccine efforts and the World Health Organisation.

‘After nine months of fighting COVID, the very notion of the international community looks tattered,’ Johnson will say, according to extracts released by his office on Friday.

‘Unless we unite and turn our fire against our common foe, we know that everyone will lose.

‘Now is the time therefore... for humanity to reach across borders and repair these ugly rifts.’

Johnson has previously described the current state of international relations as ‘fissiparous’, highlighting unseemly wrangling between countries over protective equipment and drugs stockpiling.

‘We have seen a return to nationalist priorities in a way that’s been very depressing for those who believe in globalisation and internationalism,’ he told a parliamentary committee on September 16.

He pledged to use Britain’s upcoming presidency of the G7 next year to ‘bring the world back together after COVID’.

His new funding plan has been developed in consultation with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the British scientific research charity the Wellcome Trust.

It includes a proposal to develop a worldwide network of hubs to identify pathogens before they leap from animals to humans.

Other measures include boosting capacity for treatments and vaccines, improving early warning systems and agreeing international protocols for health crises.

Britain hosted a conference in June which saw $8.8 million pledged for the global vaccines alliance Gavi to help immunisation programmes disrupted by the pandemic.

Johnson will also announce new funding for COVAX, the international coronavirus vaccines procurement pool, and pledge £340 million ($433 million, 372 million euros) over the next four years to the WHO — a 30 per cent increase.

The prime minister, himself a COVID survivor who required intensive care treatment after catching the virus in March, has faced criticism at home for his own handling of crisis.

Almost 42,000 people testing positive for the virus in Britain have died, and Johnson this week announced further restrictions following a sharp rise in cases.

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