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The world's experts must stand together in the fight against coronavirus

6 April 2020

The Foreign Affairs Committee publishes its Report on Viral Immunity - The FCO's role in building a coalition against COVID-19.

Global co-operation is key

Pandemics do not respect borders. They require a response based on science, evidence and international co-operation. 

However, it is clear that existing regional and multilateral organisations, including the WHO, are not achieving the international co-operation needed to fight a global pandemic. It is up to Governments to forge consensus on action required to save lives now and to prepare for future pandemics.

Disinformation costs lives

Disinformation about the virus has already cost lives. It is essential that the Government issues clear and transparent messages at home to confront and rebut disinformation spread by foreign powers. It must also work closely with allies to present a united front where possible, and to help ensure that vital international research efforts are not compromised by propaganda and bad data.

A G20 for Public Health

The Government's priority right now is resolving the current crisis, as it should be. Yet it would be a catastrophic error to deprioritise learning lessons from this pandemic and implementing them before the next one. The FCO should lead the way in building international support for reforming existing multilateral organisations and building new structures to respond more effectively to the next pandemic. 

We propose establishing a 'G20 for Public Health' to build co-operation between expert researchers across the globe even in the absence of united political leadership. Such a framework should be science-led, with participation contingent on honest co-operation in the open and transparent sharing of public health data.

Chair's comments

Chair of Committee, Tom Tugendhat MP, commented:

"The only way we can overcome a global crisis on the scale of coronavirus is by working together as a global community. Our best weapons against this virus are science, evidence and co-operation. This may seem obvious to most, yet instead of sharing the information needed to help tackle the pandemic, some of the most powerful countries in the world have actively tried to supress and manipulate it. 

As the country of origin, China initially allowed disinformation to spread as quickly as the virus. Rather than helping other countries prepare a swift and strong response, it is increasingly apparent that they manipulated vital information about the virus in order to protect the regime's image.  

The Government needs to tackle these lies with a clear and quick response, working with our allies to show a united front in the face of false facts and deadly disinformation. 

We are proposing the establishment of a 'G20 for Public Health', bringing together scientists and researchers from across the world's most developed economies to share accurate data in an open forum. Participation would be contingent on transparency and honesty. I have written to my counterparts in G20 nations today, urging their parliaments to encourage governments to pursue this initiative."

Further information

Image: Coronavirus Covid-19 Credit: iXimus from Pixabay