G7 leaders have discussed the origins of the coronavirus outbreak as the World Health Organisation confirmed all hypotheses continue to be considered – including the Wuhan lab leak theory.
At their summit in Cornwall on Saturday, G7 leaders were joined by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director general, during their talks on the COVID crisis and efforts to avoid future pandemics.
The WHO chief set the world’s leading democracies the challenge of vaccinating 70% of the global population against COVID by the time of the G7’s next summit in Germany next year.
And, speaking to reporters at a briefing after the leaders’ discussions, Dr Tedros confirmed the subject of the COVID-19 outbreak was raised at the Cornwall summit.
Last month, US President Joe Biden ordered intelligence officials to “redouble” efforts to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, including the theory that it came from a laboratory in China.
Referring to the millions around the world who have died due to COVID, Dr Tedros said: “This is very tragic and I think the respect these people deserve is knowing what the origin of this virus is, so we can prevent it from happening again.”
Dr Tedros confirmed the WHO was preparing for the second phase of its investigation into the origins of COVID, which he said would need “transparency” and the “cooperation” of China.
“We believe that all hypotheses should be open and we need to proceed with the second phase to really know the origins,” he said.
Dr Tedros also revealed how he had urged G7 leaders to step up efforts to vaccinate the entirety of the world.
“Around the world many other countries are facing a surge in cases, and they’re facing it without vaccines,” he said.
“We’re in the race of our lives and it’s not a fair race and most countries are very late to the starting line.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the chair of this year’s G7 summit, has challenged leaders to help vaccinate the global population by the end of next year, including through a commitment to provide at least one billion coronavirus vaccine doses.
The US has pledged to purchase 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine for poorer countries, while the UK has vowed to provide at least 100 million surplus COVID vaccine doses to other countries within the next year.
But Dr Tedros called for “more” vaccines to be delivered “faster.
“The challenge I set to G7 leaders was that, to truly end the pandemic, our goal must be to vaccinate at least 70% of the world’s population by the time the G7 meets again in Germany next year,” he said.
“This can be done with the support of the G7 and the G20 together.
“To do that we need 11 billion doses. We welcome the generous announcement made by G7 nations about donations of vaccines, but we need more and we need them faster.”
Among the G7, countries are split between those in favour of waiving vaccine patents – such as the US and France – and those opposed, including the UK and Germany.
Dr Tedros said the waiving of intellectual property rights over vaccines was “essential”.
“If we cannot waive the IP now and use it in this unprecedented situation, then when? When do we use it?,” he asked.
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