G7 leaders set to agree on plan to cut short future pandemics

G7 leaders on Sunday are expected to agree to a commitment to implement a series of measures to ensure a global pandemic like COVID-19 never happens again.

Leaders also expected to detail plans for donating 1 billion vaccine doses

At the close of the G7 summit on Sunday, leaders are expected to sign a declaration outlining a series of measures for dealing with future pandemics as well as discuss their plan for donating one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries. (Phil Noble/The Associated Press)

G7 leaders on Sunday are expected to agree to a commitment to implement a series of measures to ensure a global pandemic like COVID-19 never happens again.

The Carbis Bay Declaration — named for the southern English community that hosted the summit — was spearheaded by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The initiative was given a qualified thumbs-up on Saturday by senior officials of the World Health Organization, who warned the international community still needs to find a way out of the current crisis.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the WHO, reiterated to the leaders of the world's top industrialized nations that the health agency has set a goal of fully immunizing 70 per cent of the world's population by this time next year.

"It is absolutely true, we need bigger, better, faster for the future, and we should be very ambitious as you have proposed," Tedros said in a video technical briefing Saturday evening. "In addition to preparing for the future, the question every person on earth is asking is how and when will we end this pandemic."

The WHO's proposal will require 11 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to be manufactured and administered by mid-2022.

"We're the race of our lives, but it's not a fair race. Most countries have not left the starting line," Tedros said.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, pictured in May, urged G7 leaders to strengthen their commitments to helping developing countries access COVID-19 vaccines. (Laurent Gillieron/Reuters)

Canada to donate or pay for 100 million shots

At the close of the G7 summit on Sunday, leaders are expected to outline how their pledge of donating one billion doses of vaccines to developing countries will be realized.

Included in that announcement will be details on how Canada plans to meet its target of giving away or paying for 100 million shots of vaccine — a figure quietly committed to by the Liberal government at the onset of the summit.

G7 leaders were joined in their discussions on global health by their counterparts from South Korea, South Africa, Australia and India, as well as the secretary general of the United Nations.

The pandemic declaration leaders are expected to sign sets out a series of concrete commitments, including the goal to slash the development time of future vaccines to under 100 days.

Among the other promises is a commitment to reinforce global surveillance networks and genomic sequencing.

Lab leak theory still active

Also Saturday, Tedros said more investigation is needed into the origin of COVID-19, and he refused to rule out a theory that it was accidentally leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China.

"We need co-operation from the Chinese side," he said. "We need transparency to understand and know or find the origins of this virus."

Last month, U.S. President Joe Biden ordered American intelligence agencies to "redouble" their efforts to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, including the possibility that it came from a lab, rather than animal to human transmission.

Tedros spoke about the millions who have died and the countless more who've suffered because of the virus. 

"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," he said.

The WHO is preparing for the second phase of its investigation into the virus origins.


Murray Brewster

Senior reporter, defence and security

Murray Brewster is senior defence writer for CBC News, based in Ottawa. He has covered the Canadian military and foreign policy from Parliament Hill for over a decade. Among other assignments, he spent a total of 15 months on the ground covering the Afghan war for The Canadian Press. Prior to that, he covered defence issues and politics for CP in Nova Scotia for 11 years and was bureau chief for Standard Broadcast News in Ottawa.