A staff member checks information about a woman who has just finished quarantine at a quarantine center on March 16, 2020 in Shanghai, China.
China News Service | China News Service | Getty Images
World leaders have released a letter calling for a pandemic treaty to improve cooperation and transparency on future outbreaks. However, China and the US were not among the signatories.
In the joint letter published in newspapers around the world on Tuesday, leaders argued that the Covid-19 crisis was “the greatest challenge facing the global community since the late 1940s”.
The document was signed by more than 20 leading politicians and representatives from across Europe, Africa, South Africa and Asia, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Both China and the US, which blocked horns multiple times during the pandemic on allegations of a lack of transparency, propaganda and misinformation, were missing from the list.
When asked about the absence of China and the US in the letter, World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (one of the signatories and chief executives of a treaty) downplayed the concerns.
“I don’t want it to be seen as a problem, it wasn’t even a problem,” he said during a press conference Tuesday morning. “When the discussion on the global pandemic treaty begins, all member states will be represented.”
“Mostly it’s like an opt-in (process). Interested countries signed up to join, but in some cases also invited to regional representation,” he added.
The WHO Director-General said talks with member states, including the US and China, had been “positive” but did not confirm whether the US and China (as well as Russia, another notable absentee) had been asked directly to sign the letter.
What was in the letter?
In the letter, world leaders expressed hope “that we can build a more robust international health architecture that provides better protection for future generations”.
“There will also be pandemics and other major health crises in the future. No national government or multilateral organization can face such a threat alone. It is only a matter of when the time comes.”
The WHO Director General and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, one of the first officials to call for an international treaty to combat future pandemics, also signed the letter.
Tuesday morning’s press conference precedes the expected presentation of the WHO-China joint investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is widely expected to replicate the initial results presented last month.
In February, the WHO and China team of experts reported that the coronavirus “most likely” came from animals before it spread to humans, rejecting the theory that the disease had leaked from a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the causes of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic leave the Jade Hotel on a bus after completing their quarantine in Wuhan, China’s central Hubei Province, on Jan. 28, 2021.
HECTOR RETAMAL | AFP | Getty Images
However, there were unanswered questions about whether the team was able to fully investigate the matter in the face of delays in the investigation (the WHO-led team of experts traveled to China in early 2021, more than a year after the pandemic first emerged) and China’s acute sensitivity to the pandemic.
Beijing has denied allegations of withholding information and was slow to warn global health officials of the new coronavirus when it emerged and vehemently denied that it was responsible for the initial outbreak that severely damaged and nearly killed the global economy so far 2 , 8 million people.
According to a draft copy received from The Associated Press, the conclusion of the joint WHO-China study, due to be released later Tuesday, will reiterate initial findings that the virus was most likely from animals and suggest further research on each scenario – except for the laboratory leak hypothesis.
Need for more transparency
Transparency, or a lack of it, has been a persistent flaw throughout the coronavirus pandemic, a global health crisis for which few governments seemed prepared.
The UK has already announced that it will set up a new health security agency to ensure the country is prepared for future pandemics. The lack of international coordination during the pandemic also appears grave, with vaccine delivery and distribution being the most recent source of sharpness between countries, particularly between the EU and the UK
International leaders now calling for an international pandemic treaty say the deal’s main objective is “to promote a nationwide and societal approach that strengthens national, regional and global capacities and resilience to future pandemics”.
Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) stands at the beginning of the summit between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (l) and French President Emmanuel Macron.
The proposed system would provide for increased international cooperation to improve alert systems, data and research sharing, and “local, regional and global development and distribution of medical and public health measures such as vaccines” . Medicines, diagnostics and personal protective equipment. “
Perhaps just as importantly, the treaty would aim to promote “more transparency, cooperation and accountability” among the signatories, the heads of state and government hope.
“Such a treaty would lead to more mutual accountability and responsibility, transparency and cooperation in the international system according to its rules and norms,” they said.
“To achieve this, we will work with world leaders and all stakeholders, including civil society and the private sector. We believe that, as leaders and leaders of international institutions, we have a responsibility to ensure that the World is learning the lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic. “
The Industrialized Nations Group of Seven (G-7) is expected to further investigate the idea of the pandemic treaty at a summit in Cornwall, UK in June.