Tony Blair: closer global co-operation would have bolstered Covid-19 fight

Former British prime minister says greater emphasis should have been placed on testing when virus first emerged

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - March 21, 2009: Former Prime Minister of Britain, Tony Blair talks about the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and the steps needed for peace in Palestine and Israel, seen at Emirates Palace.
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A lack of global co-operation damaged efforts to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, former UK prime minister Tony Blair said on Thursday.

Mr Blair, who stressed the importance of testing people for the virus, said there should have been stronger international co-ordination when the virus was first emerging.

“My view is we would be so much better off if we co-operated globally on it from the very beginning. I think the absence of global co-operation has probably put us two to three months behind where we otherwise could have been actually,” Mr Blair told a webinar.

“Think how much better off you would be if right at the very beginning, countries had come together and incentivised the development of rapid, easy to use tests. Probably would’ve got them several months before the time we have them.”

He made the comments as new research carried out by the Tony Blair Instiute for Global Change, in collaboration with public opinion pollster YouGov and the University of Cambridge, suggested that the general public would have supported greater co-operation around the world in the handling of the virus.

Benedict Macon-Cooney, head of the science and innovation unit at the Tony Blair Institute, said countries taking unilateral measures to do things such as develop a vaccine had undercut global co-operation efforts.

“Covid-19 has all too tragically revealed some of the failures of our current institutions, with some of the most prosperous nations being the most ill-prepared. In an interconnected world it should serve as a wake-up call to build more effective coalitions for collaboration with technology at the centre,” he said.

“This requires new forms of digital multilateralism which focus on generating comprehensive, real-time and actionable data, greater investment in R & D and a global policy framework that makes interoperability and standards a central requirement.”