Thank you for contacting me about proposals for an international pandemic treaty. This is a very important issue that requires careful consideration.
As you will know, the UK Government has joined international partners in calling for a new global settlement to help prepare for future pandemics. This initiative was taken to the World Health Organization (WHO), which in turn established an independent panel to provide an evidenced-based approach to address future health threats.
A resolution at the World Health Assembly Special Session in November 2021, co-sponsored by the UK, approves the formation of an Intergovernmental Negotiating Body to draft and negotiate a WHO convention, agreement, or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. Ministers have said that global cooperation is needed to better protect the UK and other countries from the detrimental health, social and economic impacts of pandemics.
Unfortunately the reality is that COVID-19 still remains a significant threat; the virus will change and adapt and we must learn to live well with it, as well as being prepared for future pandemics. But I remain concerned that the UK Government’s plan for living with COVID is no more than an empty slogan.
I am pleased that Labour has set out an alternative plan for learning to live well with COVID and to prevent the need for further restrictions to tackle the spread of the virus. This includes retaining volunteer responders to assist with vaccinations; prioritising testing; fixing sick pay; ensuring that the UK shares surplus vaccines with the rest of the world; and protecting learning by shoring up children’s supply of testing and fitting schools with ventilation systems.
More widely, I urge regular pandemic planning through cross-Government ‘germ games’, alongside launching a ‘lessons learned’ exercise and a full public COVID-19 inquiry that delivers for families. We must also bolster our NHS and continue to support world leading research and innovation and global collaboration.
A working draft of the WHO Pandemic Treaty is expected in August 2022, with a view of implementing this in 2024. The WHO has suggested that any future Treaty could be adopted according to Article 19 of the WHO Constitution, which would require agreement of at least two-thirds of member states.
I assure you I will follow developments in this area closely and bear in mind the points you have raised. Thank you once again for contacting me about this issue.