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WHO members eye pandemic preparation, as new variant emerges

The WHO is opening a long-planned special session of member states to discuss ways to strengthen the global fight against pandemics like the coronavirus

World Health Organization | Coronavirus

AP  |  Geneva 


The is opening a long-planned special session of member states to discuss ways to strengthen the global fight against pandemics like the coronavirus, just as the worrying new omicron variant has sparked immediate concerns worldwide.

In the wake of diplomatic wrangling, a draft resolution at the special World Health Assembly stops short of calling for work toward specifically establishing a pandemic treaty" or legally binding instrument sought by some, which could beef up the international response when not if a new pandemic erupts.

European Union member states and others had sought language calling for work toward a treaty, but the United States and a few other countries countered that the substance of any accord should be worked out first before any such document is given a name.

A treaty would suggest a legally binding agreement that would require ratification and would likely incur domestic political haggling in some countries.

Britain's ambassador in Geneva, Simon Manley, tweeted a copy of the draft text that was agreed by consensus as required under WHO rules on such issues and praised Chile and Australia for their work as co-chairs.

The #Omicron variant shows yet again why we need a common understanding of how we prepare for and respond to pandemics, so we're all playing by the same rules," he wrote.

The draft makes no reference to the word treaty but, among other things, calls for the creation of an intergovernmental negotiating body among WHO member states to work out a possible deal to improve pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.

The three-day, largely virtual meeting that opens Monday amounts to a long-term approach: Any U.N.-backed agreement is likely to take many months, if not years, to be concluded and come into effect.

But it comes as many countries have been scrambling to address the emergence of the new omicron variant that has led to travel bans across the world and sent tremors through stock markets on Friday.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Mon, November 29 2021. 16:31 IST