G7 leaders will commit on Saturday to a series of joint actions to try to prevent another global pandemic that creates the human and economic devastation wrought by coronavirus.
In a declaration at their meeting in Cornwall, the leaders will commit to cutting the time taken to develop and licence vaccines, treatments and diagnostics for any future disease to under 100 days, to reinforce global surveillance networks and genomic sequencing capacity, and to strengthen the World Health Organisation.
They will also agree measures to control the growing number of diseases that originate in animals and to accelerate the delivery of vaccines for livestock diseases. The declaration follows a commitment by the leaders to donate 1 billion coronavirus vaccine doses to other countries.
“In the last year the world has developed several effective coronavirus vaccines, licenced and manufactured them at pace and is now getting them into the arms of the people who need them,” Boris Johnson said.
“But to truly defeat coronavirus and recover, we need to prevent a pandemic like this from ever happening again. That means learning lessons from the last 18 months and doing it differently next time around. I am proud that for the first time today the world’s leading democracies have come together to make sure that never again will we be caught unawares.”
The British prime minister is hosting the leaders of the United States, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Canada at the summit in Carbis Bay near St Ives, along with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council Charles Michel. They will be joined on Saturday by the leaders of South Korea, Australia and South Africa and remotely by India’s prime minister Narendra Modi.
Mr Johnson opened the first formal session of the summit by telling his fellow leaders that it was an important opportunity for them to learn the lessons of the pandemic.
“We need to make sure we don’t repeat some of the errors that we have made in the course of the last 18 months or so and we put in place what is needed to allow our economies to recover. They have the potential to bounce back very strongly and we have all sorts of reasons to be optimistic, but it is vital that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the last great crisis, the last big economic recession of 2008 when the recovery was not uniform across all part of society,” he said.
“What’s gone wrong with this pandemic, what risks being a lasting scar is, the inequalities that have been entrenched. We need to make sure that as we recover, we level up across our societies – we need to build back better. I actually think that we have a huge opportunity to do that, because as a G7 we are united in our vision for a cleaner, greener world.”
Although Mr Johnson wants to focus on the summit’s formal agenda of pandemic recovery, the environment, the economy and foreign policy, the meeting risks being overshadowed by his dispute with the EU over the Northern Ireland protocol. The prime minister will have bilateral meetings with French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday morning, followed by a meeting with Dr Von der Leyen and Mr Michel.
Downing Street said Brexit minister David Frost was with the prime minister in Cornwall but declined to say which meetings he would attend. Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said the prime minister did not believe the summit was the forum to produce a breakthrough but was focused on finding “radical and urgent solutions within the protocol”.
The spokesman repeated that the British government did not rule out any options in its dispute with the EU over the protocol, including taking further unilateral action in breach of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.