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UK

Johnson says: world needs pandemic treaty to ensure transparency

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that world powers should clinch a global treaty on pandemics to ensure proper transparency after the novel coronavirus outbreak which originated in China.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty arrive for a coronavirus pandemic media briefing at Downing Street, London, Britain February 15, 2021. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/Pool via REUTERS

Johnson said he would be keen to agree a global treaty on pandemics where countries agreed to share data, amid British and U.S. concern over access given to a World Health Organization (WHO) mission to China.

Asked by Reuters about any action he wanted to improve transparency, Johnson said: “I think what the world needs to see is a general agreement on how we track data surrounding zoonotic pandemics... and we want a joint agreement on transparency.”

“I think one of the attractive ideas that we have seen in the last few months has been a proposal for a global treaty on pandemics, so that signatory countries make sure that they contribute all the data they have and we are able to get to the bottom of what’s happened and stop it happening again,” he said at a news conference.

“That is the sensible thing to do.”

European Council President, Charles Michel, wrote on Twitter that he welcomed “the support of @BorisJohnson to work together on a pandemic treaty in order to improve global preparedness, resilience and recovery.”

As part of Britain’s presidency of the Group of Seven (G7) rich nations, Johnson wants to lead efforts on a global approach to pandemics, including an early warning system. But a weekend statement ahead of a call of G7 leaders on Friday did not go into detail about any treaty on transparency.

The COVID-19 outbreak, which was first detected in China in late 2019, has killed 2.4 million people, tipped the global economy into its worst peacetime slump since the Great Depression and upended normal life for billions of people.

Britain’s foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Sunday he shared U.S. concerns about the level of access given to a World Health Organization COVID-19 fact-finding mission to China, while Johnson has said he supports U.S. President Joe Biden in the need for more data from the investigation.

Asked by Reuters who he held responsible for any lack of transparency on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, Johnson said: “I think it’s fairly obvious that most of the evidence seems to point to the disease having originated in Wuhan.”

“Therefore I think we all need to see as much as we possibly can about how that might have happened, the zoonotic questions that people are asking. I think we need as much data as possible,” he said.

Reporting by Alistair Smout, Guy Faulconbridge and William James; Editing by Hugh Lawson, William Maclean

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