COVID-19: New worldwide network of ‘zoonotic hubs’ to identify dangerous pathogens before they leap from animals to humans

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The world must overcome the extraordinary divisions created by coronavirus and unite to defeat the pandemic, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on [Saturday].

In his virtual address to the Assembly, Boris Johnson announced a series of new measures to help lead the world out of the crisis and set out an ambitious five-point plan to prevent future pandemics.

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The plan, developed in consultation with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and The Wellcome Trust, starts with a proposal to develop a worldwide network of ‘zoonotic hubs’ to identify dangerous pathogens before they leap from animals to humans, as COVID-19 is believed to have done.

Alongside the domestic investment the PM said, the UK, will commit £500 million in aid funding for the COVAX Advance Market Commitment, a facility to help 92 of the world’s poorest countries access a coronavirus vaccine.

Boris Johnson pledged to use the UK’s G7 presidency next year to work with our global partners to implement the five-point plan, which represents an innovative new approach to preventing global health crises.

The proposals are:

Set up a worldwide network of zoonotic research hubs to spot a new pandemic before it starts. About 60 percent of the pathogens circulating in the human population originated in animals and leapt from one species to the other in a “zoonotic” transmission. Zoonotic research centres would be charged with spotting dangerous animal pathogens before they cross the species barrier and infect human beings.

Develop manufacturing capacity for treatments and vaccines. A strong manufacturing capability, in the UK and around the world, will mean tried and tested treatments and vaccines can be held ready to deploy against emerging threats.

Design a global pandemic early warning system to predict a coming health crisis. This would require a vast expansion of our ability to collect and analyse samples and distribute the findings, using health data-sharing agreements covering every country.

Agree global protocols ready for a future health emergency. In the coronavirus pandemic, countries have fought 193 different campaigns against the same enemy. A common set of protocols, covering everything from information sharing to PPE supplies, would allow us to respond more cohesively and effectively.

Reduce the trade barriers which have impeded the coronavirus response. Many countries imposed export controls at the outset of the pandemic, about two thirds of which remain in force. Tariffs on key goods like soap can exceed 30 percent. The UK has committed to lifting tariffs on many COVID-critical products from January 1st.

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