A new Global Pandemic Radar will be launched by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to identify coronavirus variants and track new diseases around the world.
“Tackling Covid-19 globally and ensuring we are better prepared for future health threats is an absolute priority for the UK’s G7 presidency,” Johnson said before Friday’s launch of the project, ahead of the Global Health Summit hosted by Italy and the EU.
“The world must never be caught unawares again by a virus spreading among us unchecked,” Johnson said.
“We need to build a system of disease surveillance fit for the 21st century, with real-time data sharing and rapid genomic sequencing and response.”
The pathogen surveillance network aims to be this system, enabling the rapid development of vaccines, treatments and tests.
Johnson spoke to the Director General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and Wellcome Trust director Jeremy Farrar on Thursday about the next steps for the project before the G7 summit, which the UK is hosting in June.
The WHO will lead an implementation group, supported by the Wellcome Trust, to launch the new international partnership.
Work on tracking future pandemics is already under way, and earlier in May, a WHO center for pandemic and epidemic intelligence was unveiled in Berlin.
The WHO surveillance first identified the B1617 Indian variant, which is now present in 50 countries and has jeopardized the UK’s timetable for lifting Covid restrictions.
The Global Pandemic Radar is expected to be fully up and running with a network of surveillance centers before the end of 2021.
Mr Johnson first called for a global network of disease surveillance centres in a five-point plan presented to the UN Security Council last September.