GENEVA. – Member states of the World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday agreed to start drafting a global agreement to prevent and tackle the next global pandemic.
Countries adopted a resolution on Wednesday at a special meeting in Geneva, launching the process that it is hoped should result in a new agreement on pandemics.
The three-day meeting of the World Health Assembly – the WHO’s decision-making body comprising all 194 member states – was an unprecedented special session on how to handle the next pandemic.
The decision was welcomed by the director-general of the UN health agency, Tedros Ghebreyesus, who hailed the move as historic.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on the many flaws in the global system to protect people from pandemics: the most vulnerable people going without vaccines; health workers without needed equipment to perform their life-saving work; and ‘me-first’ approaches that stymie the global solidarity needed to deal with a global threat,” Ghebreyesus said.
“But at the same time, we have seen inspiring demonstrations of scientific and political collaboration, from the rapid development of vaccines to today’s commitment by countries to negotiate a global accord that will help to keep future generations safer from the impacts of pandemics,” he added.
In the meantime, countries should continue to abide by the WHO’s 2005 International Health Regulations, Ghebreyesus said.
The decision, entitled The World Together, was adopted by consensus at the special assembly, drawing applause at the end of a three-day meeting.
“The text before us is the product of extensive discussions, of frank exchanges and of compromises,” said Australia’s ambassador Sally Mansfield, who co-chaired the working group.
Meanwhile, at least 23 countries have reported cases of the Omicron variant and that number is expected to grow, Ghebreyesus told a media briefing yesterday.
“We are learning more all the time about Omicron, but there’s still more to learn about its effect on transmission, severity of disease, and the effectiveness of tests, therapeutics and vaccines.”
He also thanked Botswana and South Africa “for detecting, sequencing and reporting this variant so rapidly”.
“It is deeply concerning to me that those countries are now being penalised by others for doing the right thing,” Ghebreyesus said.
Many nations closed their borders to South Africa and other southern African nations after the announcement of the discovery, resulting in many travel disruptions ahead of the festive season.
“Blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread of Omicron, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.”
Ghebreyesus called on countries to take “rational, proportional risk-reduction measures, in keeping with the international health regulations”. – Al Jazeera