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Leaders of 23 Countries Support Treaty for Health Emergencies


Press briefing on Pandemic Treaty with WHO general director Dr Tedros and European council president Charles Michel on Mar. 30, 2021.
Leaders of 23 Countries Support Treaty for Health Emergencies
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Leaders of 23 countries and the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday supported an idea to create an international treaty for health emergencies. The treaty would strengthen rules on sharing information.

The idea of such a treaty was first suggested by President of the European Council Charles Michel at a meeting of the Group of 20 major economic powers last November. The treaty would try to ensure that every country would have an equal ability to get vaccines, medicine and needed equipment for widespread health crises.

Diplomats say WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has agreed with the idea, but official talks have not begun.

Tedros told a news conference on Tuesday that a treaty would solve the problems that many countries experienced after COVID-19 first appeared. He said the first written attempt at a resolution on negotiations could be presented to the WHO’s 194 member states at their yearly meeting in May.

The WHO has been criticized for how it dealt with the COVID-19 health crisis. It was accused by the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump of helping China hide the beginning of the coronavirus’ spread. The United Nations health agency denies this.

On Monday, Reuters saw the results of a joint WHO-China study on the virus’s origins. It said the virus had probably moved from bats to humans through another animal. It also said that a leak from a virus lab was “extremely unlikely” as the cause. The study, however, left many questions unanswered and called for more research.

On Tuesday, the treaty proposal got the support of the leaders of Fiji, Portugal, Romania, Britain, Rwanda, Kenya, France, Germany, Greece, South Korea, Chile, Costa Rica, Albania and South Africa. Leaders of Trinidad and Tobago, the Netherlands, Tunisia, Senegal, Spain, Norway, Serbia, Indonesia, Ukraine and the WHO itself also offered their support.

“There will be other pandemics and other major health emergencies. No single government or multilateral agency can address this threat alone,” the leaders wrote in a joint statement in several large newspapers.

“We believe that nations should work together towards a new international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response,” it said.

The leaders of China and the United States did not sign the statement. However, Tedros said both countries had been supportive of the idea of a treaty. He also said all countries would be represented in talks.

The treaty would work with the WHO’s International Health Regulations. They are rules that have been in force since 2005. Nations would work together to control supplies, share virus samples, research and development, the WHO’s assistant director said.

I’m Susan Shand.

The Reuters News Agency reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. was the editor.

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Words in This Story

origins – n. (often pl.) the point or place where something begins or is created

multilateral – adj. involving more than two groups or countries

address – v. to give attention to something; to deal with something

response – v. something done that is a reaction to something else; an answer or reply

sample –n. a small amount of something that is used to give information about what it was taken from

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