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  • Nations approve steps to better prepare for pandemics

    Author: AAP

The World Health Organisation's member countries have approved a series of steps to improve global preparedness for and response to pandemics like COVID-19 and mpox.

Nations agreed to amend the International Health Regulations, which were adopted in 2005, such as by defining a "pandemic emergency" and helping developing countries gain better access to financing and medical products, the WHO said.

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The agreement came on Saturday as the UN agency wrapped up its six-day World Health Assembly for 2024.

Plans to adopt a more sweeping pandemic "treaty" at the meeting were shelved largely over disagreements between developing countries and richer ones about better sharing of technology and the pathogens that trigger outbreaks.

But nations agreed to complete negotiations on the pandemic accord within the year "at the latest", the WHO said.


The WHO's 194 member states have been negotiating for two years on an agreement that could increase collaboration before and during pandemics after the acknowledged failures during COVID-19.

"The historic decisions taken today demonstrate a common desire by member states to protect their own people, and the world's, from the shared risk of public health emergencies and future pandemics," WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

Lawrence Gostin, a public health law expert at Washington's Georgetown University, hailed a "big win for health security", and posted on X, formerly Twitter, that the move "will simplify negotiations for the pandemic agreement".

The WHO said countries have defined a pandemic emergency as a communicable disease that has a "wide geographical spread" or a high risk of one, and has exceeded or can exceed the ability of national health systems to respond.

It's also defined as an outbreak that has or could cause "substantial" economic or social disruption and requires quick international action, the agency said.

The changes to the global health rules were aimed at shoring up the world's defences against new pathogens after COVID-19 killed more than 7 million people, according to WHO data.

With Reuters


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