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World unprepared for another pandemic as WHO treaty talks push on

May 31, 2024 7:09 PM IST

World | WHO | pandemic | treaty talks

The world is unprepared for another health crisis like COVID-19, a leading global health expert has warned, as countries make a last push to agree a way forward for a pandemic treaty amid fears the political climate for agreement could sour.

World Health Organization member states gathered in Geneva on Friday to work out how to continue negotiations about an accord after missing this month’s deadline.

A major sticking point in the treaty has been provisions for low and middle-income countries to have access to 20% of tests, treatments and vaccines developed to fight the pandemic, either at no-profit costs or donated.

Ali Pate said the figure was reasonable to avoid the scramble for life-saving products that saw African countries last-in-line during COVID.

While talks on the treaty are likely to continue for several months or even years, a parallel process to update an existing set of rules that govern international disease outbreaks are closer to agreement, sources said, and could be signed off before the end of the WHO’s annual meeting on Saturday.

Other negotiators and observers said there was a sense of urgency in the treaty talks, not least because of concerns that elections in a number of key countries this year could bring in right-leaning governments who fear the treaty could threaten their sovereignty, which the WHO denies and a clause in the document guards against.

“This needs to be done now or else things are only going to get worse with things moving to the right,” said one Western diplomat.

(Reuters)

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Last updated on: 19th June 2024