Boris Johnson to use the first leaders’ meeting of the G7 to unveil five-point Covid-19 plan

Ideas include an international network of zoonotic research hubs and a global pandemic early-warning system

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a news conference about the ongoing situation with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, inside 10 Downing Street, in London, Britain, December 16, 2020. Matt Dunham/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
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Boris Johnson is set to use the first leaders’ meeting of the G7 to unveil a five-point Covid-19 plan.

The prime minister will host fellow G7 leaders for a virtual meeting to discuss how the world's leading democracies can work together to ensure equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines around the world, prevent future pandemics and build back better from coronavirus.

During the meeting on Friday he is due to unveil a five-point plan to address the pandemic issues.

It will include a worldwide network of zoonotic research hubs, the development of a global manufacturing capacity for treatments and vaccines, the design of a global pandemic early-warning system, the agreement of global protocols for a future health emergency and the reduction of trade barriers.

The meeting will be the first hosted by the prime minister as part of the UK’s G7 presidency this year and the first gathering of G7 leaders since April 2020.

“The solutions to the challenges we face – from the colossal mission to get vaccines to every single country, to the fight to reverse the damage done to our ecosystems and lead a sustainable recovery from coronavirus – lie in the discussions we have with our friends and partners around the world,” he said on Saturday.

“Quantum leaps in science have given us the vaccines we need to end this pandemic for good. Now, world governments have a responsibility to work together to put those vaccines to the best possible use.”

In February, the UK also holds the Presidency of the UN Security Council, which rotates between members every month.

Mr Johnson is due to lead an online meeting of the UNSC on February 23. He has said he will use the presidency to galvanise international action on Covid-19, climate change and conflict.

It will be the first time a British prime minister has chaired a UNSC session since 1992.

The discussions at the meeting will inform crucial action before the UK-hosted COP26 Summit in November.

Before Friday’s meeting, the foreign secretary will host a UN meeting on Wednesday on equitable access to vaccines, including ensuring they reach people in conflict zones and during humanitarian crises.

Mr Johnson will use the gathering, which will be US President Biden’s first major multilateral engagement, to call for leaders to work together to beat the pandemic.

He will argue that putting nationals first should not come at the expense of working on a unified response, and that the past year of the pandemic have shown no country can be safe until every country is safe from the virus.

On Saturday the UK was urging people aged over 70 to take up shots, to meet its target of immunising 15 million people by Monday.

Mr Johnson said the inoculations demonstrate the value of international co-operation.

Global pandemic preparedness will be a priority for the UK’s G7 presidency and Mr Johnson hopes to work with fellow G7 leaders to launch his five-point plan to prevent future outbreaks.

There have already been positive steps to ensure equitable access to coronavirus vaccines.

Last month the US announced it would join the Covax initiative, the last G7 country to do so.

Covax will provide developing countries with 1.3 billion doses of the vaccine this year and the UK is providing £548m ($758) to the project.

In recent weeks the UK has worked closely with G7 partners on many global issues and shared challenges.

On Friday, Britain’s chancellor and the governor of the Bank of England held the first meeting of G7 finance ministers.

G7 foreign ministers have also spoken out together in the past month to condemn the military coup of Myanmar, the detention of Alexei Navalny in Russia and threats to human rights in Hong Kong.

The G7 leaders’ meeting will be attended by heads of the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US, and the presidents of the European Council and EU Commission.

The UN Security Council session, to be chaired by Mr Johnson, will also involve the  the UN Secretary General, permanent members China, France, Russia and the US, and non-permanent members Estonia, India, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Niger, Norway, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia and Vietnam.