While more than 20 heads of government and global agencies call for an international treaty for pandemic preparedness in the wake of COVID-19, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. has concerns about the timing of the push for a new pandemic treaty.
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“We do have some concerns primarily about the timing and launching into negotiations for a new treaty right now,” Psaki told reporters Tuesday, citing concerns that treaty negotiations “could divert attention away from substantive issues regarding the response, preparedness for future pandemic threats.”
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and leaders including Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, Premier Mario Draghi of Italy and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda proposed “a renewed collective commitment” to reinforce preparedness and response systems by leveraging the U.N. health agency’s constitution.
International regulations governing health and implemented by WHO already exist — and can be disregarded by countries with few consequences.
Despite an obligation for nations to share critical epidemic data and materials quickly with WHO, for example, China declined to do so when the coronavirus first broke out.
Reacting to the long-awaited release of an international study of the possible origins of COVID-19, Psaki called for greater transparency.
Psaki said the White House was still reviewing the report, but highlighted several concerns including lacking data, information and access. “It represents a partial and incomplete picture,” she said.
The White House believe a second stage review of the report should be lead by independent and international experts.
Team leader Peter Ben Embarek of the World Health Organization says he remains open-minded as the study presented a first-phase look into the possible origins of the coronavirus that has left nearly 2.8 million people dead and pummeled economies since it first turned up in China over a year ago.
The international study team released the findings calling it a “first start,” appealing for patience and noting all hypotheses — including a possible laboratory leak — cannot be fully ruled out.
Embarek said team members faced political pressure from “all sides,” but insisted “We were never pressured to remove critical elements in our report.” He also pointed to “privacy” issues in China that prevented sharing of some data, saying similar restrictions exist in many countries.