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WTO postpones major meeting amid fears of new Covid-19 variant

WHO has classified the B.1.1.529 variant detected in South Africa as a 'variant of concern', saying it may spread more quickly than other forms of the virus

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Coronavirus | WTO | WHO

Reuters  |  Geneva 

WTO
Scientists are also seeking to find out if it is vaccine-resistant.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) became the first major diplomatic casualty of the new variant on Friday when it postponed its first ministerial meeting in four years due to the deteriorating health situation, Geneva-based sources said.

Ministers from members were due to gather next week for a meeting widely seen as a test of the WTO's relevance.

The World Health Organisation has classified the B.1.1.529 variant detected in South Africa as a "variant of concern", saying it may spread more quickly than other forms of the virus.

Scientists are also seeking to find out if it is vaccine-resistant.

Switzerland, home to the WTO, on Friday banned direct flights from South Africa and the surrounding region, and imposed test and quarantine requirements on travel from other countries, including Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.

ALSO READ: WHO designates new Covid strain as variant of concern, names it 'Omicron'

The Geneva-based trade body had planned a meeting in person, but the new restrictions meant delegations of large players such as South Africa and the Brussels-based European Commission would have been limited to a largely virtual presence.

Even before the postponement the prospects were not bright.

The has only managed one update of its global rules in its near 27-year history, the red tape-cutting Trade Facilitation Agreement, and its 164 members looked far from agreement in its most active talks - on curbing fishing subsidies and spreading COVID-19 vaccines more widely.

"I think the organization has to demonstrate that it is capable of having success," Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said in an interview for the upcoming Reuters Next conference.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Sat, November 27 2021. 03:34 IST
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