CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus UK: Johnson co-hosts major international coronavirus conference

United Kingdom PM Boris Johnson is today co-hosting the Coronavirus Global Response International Pledging Conference.

Coronavirus UK: Johnson co-hosts major international coronavirus conference
PIPPA FOWLES AFP

Boris Johnson will today co-host the Coronavirus Global Response International Pledging Conference as nations around the world look to work together in the search for a vaccine.

Vaccine search the "most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes"

The prime minister is expected to address the virtual coronavirus pledging conference to call on other countries to step up efforts in what he believes is the “most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes”.

“To win this battle, we must work together to build an impregnable shield around all our people, and that can only be achieved by developing and mass producing a vaccine.

The more we pull together and share our expertise, the faster our scientists will succeed. The race to discover the vaccine to defeat this virus is not a competition between countries, but the most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes.”

The UK has so far been the biggest contributor to the global effort to find a coronavirus vaccine and will today announce that £388 million is being made available for research into vaccines, tests and treatments. That figure includes the £250 million for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which is dedicated to the search for a vaccine.

Today’s conference will also be co-hosted by the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Saudi Arabia and the European Commission. It had been hoped that the United States would be involved in helping the project reach its £7 billion target but it was confirmed earlier today that President Donald Trump would not be attending.

The UK’s international development secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said that international cooperation will be vital if the UK is to protect itself against this and future pandemics: “It is only by working together that we will prevent future waves of infection and end this pandemic as quickly as possible.”

UK open to EU health cooperation

The UK government’s position on accessing EU support has varied throughout the coronavirus pandemic. It was initially claimed by a Downing Street spokesman that the UK had decided not to join an EU procurement scheme for PPE and other resources because the country was “not in the EU”. However, that was later contradicted by government statements blaming the UK’s lack of involvement on a communications error.

Since then the mood appears to have shifted and the Guardian has reported that the UK is now looking to secure access to the EU’s Early Warning and Response System (EWRS). The pandemic warning system helped coordinate Europe’s response to the coronavirus and was also utilised during the bird flu outbreak.

A source within the EU was quoted in the report as saying that in future they would be willing to “plug the UK into” the system when a pandemic occurs. This arrangement is currently used by non-EU countries Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

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