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COVID-19: World leaders gather in call for global treaty

  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and 22 other world leaders gather amid calls for an international pandemic treaty
  • The WWII -style treaty will aim to unite countries and dispel nationalism
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers a COVID-19 press briefing on rule changes
  • UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock remains optimistic about summer travel

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson gathered with 22 world leaders and the World Health Organisation (WHO) amid calls for a new international treaty to help the world cope and prepare for future pandemics.

According to reports, Mr Johnson made peace with French president Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of the summit, with all parties noting that they must work together to protect the world against COVID-19.

A joint statement released by the world leaders wrote: COVID-19 has been a “stark and painful reminder that nobody is safe until everyone is safe. The only way we can ensure the world is more resilient to future pandemics is through a collective approach.”

The push for the new international treaty was spurred by signs that it will take some time to turn the tide on the coronavirus pandemic, which has exposed cracks in the global defence system.

Besides Mr Johnson, Mr Macron and Ms Merkel, European Council President Charles Michel will be in attendance and officials from Africa, South Africa and Asia. However, the US, China and Russia were not among the signatories calling for an international treaty.

According to recent news publications, the 24 leaders and the WHO backed a WWII-style international treaty, which would enhance cross border co-operation across a range of fields, including data sharing and vaccine distribution.

WHO Head, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that the treaty signed after the destruction brought about by two world wars had clear aims. That was to: “bring countries together, dispel the temptations of isolationism and nationalism, and address the challenges that we could only achieve together in the spirit of solidarity and co-operation – namely peace, prosperity, health and security.”

Yet, while a global treaty would unite countries and help prepare for the next pandemic, UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said Britain would need a vaccine surplus before it could consider exporting doses.

However, the UK is in agreeance with calls for peaceful co-operation across the global community and the need for greater transparency beyond the current crisis.

Mr Kwarteng said  although the UK must focus on the immediate threat of the Coronavirus pandemic to the country, “obviously we want to work in the spirit of co-operation as well, and when we do have surpluses, we’ll be looking to export those.”

Britain has already unveiled plans to launch a new health security agency to ensure the UK is prepared for future pandemics.

Meanwhile, the WHO’s Special Envoy on Covid-19, Dr David Nabarro, warned that without “some special action, we risk delaying global vaccination until well into 2022, which could result in further issues as new, more lethal variants will emerge”.

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK could receive 60 million jabs of the Novavax vaccine within a matter of weeks after GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) said it hopes to complete the “fill and finish” process by early May.

International pandemic treaty

Boris Johnson delivers COVID-19 update in Downing Street press briefing

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivered a press briefing on Thursday evening in Downing Street’s new GBP 2.6M White House-style media chamber.

Mr Johnson was joined by the British government’s Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty in an evening that marked the second time lockdown rules would be eased this month.

Before addressing the fundamental rule changes, Mr Johnson warned the public that while the UK’s rapid vaccine rollout has been impressive, we must continue to proceed with caution as “exactly how strong” Britain’s defences are against another COVID wave remains unknown.

The Prime Minister added that by proceeding with caution, we stand a better chance of ensuring the third lockdown is irreversible and our roadmap to freedom is resolute.

Here are all the crucial points from the PM statement on Monday.

The UK agrees on a 60 million vaccine deal with Novavax

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline is bottling tens of millions of doses of the Novavax vaccine at its manufacturing plant in Barnard Castle, County Durham.

While Novavax is currently being assessed by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the Prime Minister and GSK hope that the vaccine will be ready for distribution in early May.

According to the latest data, the Novavax jab is 96% effective against the original coronavirus strain and offers 86% protection against the Kent variant.

Stay-at-home rules scrapped for rule-of-six

From March 29th, stay-at-home rules were scrapped and replaced with the rule-of-six and two household mandate meeting outdoors.

Under these rules, people are allowed to socialise in private gardens, public parks and other outdoor spaces.

Outdoor sports facilities, including tennis and basketball courts, golf courses and cricket stadiums, also reopened, while supervised child activities can resume up to a maximum of 15 people.

Foreign travel announcement

Regarding travel abroad and overseas holidays, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would reveal more on April 5th.

He noted that other countries vaccine rollouts were not as progressive as the UK’s and that there are still a significant number of countries on Britain’s “red list”.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty also warned that easing travel restrictions too early could undo the UK’s hard-won progress. Professor Whitty identified two risks for the UK – Europe’s surging infection rate and the mutant strains of the virus, which could reduce vaccines’ impact.

That said, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told This Morning that he is hopeful that trips abroad can go ahead this summer.

During the interview, the Health Secretary insisted that the door on international travel “is not shut” and that depending on evidence on vaccine efficacy against mutant strains, Britons should look forward to escaping overseas this summer.

Nonetheless, his comments come after the UK government said its new COVID-19 legislation could delay the restart date for international travel until July.

Professor Whitty stresses COVID-19 transmission risks

While more than 30 million people in the UK have been vaccinated against COVID-19, England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty warned that unvaccinated groups of people, notably the younger generation, are still at risk of contracting and spreading the virus.

Professor Whitty advised people who have not yet been vaccinated to be cautious and stick to outdoor rules when socialising to avoid increasing transmission rates.

He added that it’s inevitable that the infection rate will rise as lockdown restrictions are lifted but that the increase could be “modest” if people don’t abuse social distancing guidelines.

When asked if grandparents could embrace grandchildren and loved ones this Easter if they had been fully vaccinated, the Chief Medical Officer said they should refrain from doing so as vaccines are not 100% effective.

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