THE transatlantic solidarity is at its best again. At the time when US President Joe Biden is touring the UK to attend the G7 and Nato summits, the two old allies have agreed to script a new partnership to deal with future threats in the health sector. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the US National Center for Epidemic Forecasting and Outbreak Analysis, run by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are set to bolster efforts to deal with global pandemic and emerging health threats.
The partnership is set to accelerate recovery from Covid-19 around the world and set up an early warning system to detect diseases by promoting disease surveillance and genomic and variant sequencing capacity across the globe. This mission will also help the low-and middle-income countries that are still short of acquiring such capabilities.
The commitment to prevent the spread of deadly pandemics as the world is currently seeing comes as the G7 leaders meet this week to multiply efforts to defeat Covid-19. In a press release issued on Thursday (11), the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Through the UK–US partnership, we will work with global partners including the World Health Organization (WHO) and philanthropic funders, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to develop global capacity for rapid genomic sequencing. This international approach to future pandemics builds on the Prime Minister’s recent launch of a new ‘Global Pandemic Radar’ to identify emerging COVID-19 variants and track new diseases around the world.” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced about the plan in May.
It was also said that to ensure the UK’s global leadership role in health protection, a new Centre for Pandemic Preparedness will be set up as part of UKHSA and it will become a leading hub in the world for all sorts of pandemic preparedness, starting with genomic surveillance of human and animal infections in collaboration with a range of scientific and academic partners. The findings will be shared with other nations.
The UK-US partnership also includes a joint commitment to advance clinical trials for vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics for infectious disease threats.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Our brilliant scientists have led the world in sequencing COVID-19 and played a pivotal role as disease detectives who are able to rapidly identify variants. To send this virus into retreat and stop the advances of future diseases, it is vital the whole world has access to the UK and US’s sophisticated surveillance and sequencing technologies.”
“Through this new landmark partnership with our closest ally, we are sharing our expertise with the world, so together we can unite and take action to prevent the spread of future pandemics to keep people safe everywhere.”
The launch came following the G7 health ministers’ meeting last week where major democracies of the world agreed over a new international approach to combat future health threats by working together to trace early warning signs from animals as well as the environment.
‘Pandemic preparedness a defining part of mission’
UKHSA Chief Executive Jenny Harries said: “Pandemic preparedness is a defining part of our mission at the UK Health Security Agency and this new partnership will ensure we are ably equipped to fight future battles with infectious diseases.”
“Infectious diseases can spread rapidly across borders, and so it is imperative we build a global pandemic response system that embodies that same quality – protecting us against future health threats and ensuring our expertise is being shared with countries across the globe.”
Dr Habib Naqvi, Director of the NHS Race and Health Observatory, said: “Addressing health inequalities is a global challenge that requires a sustained, collaborative and global response. This twinning project is therefore an excellent opportunity for the NHS Race and Health Observatory to build a mutually beneficial and strong collaboration with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, in addressing our shared ambition of tackling health inequalities and disparities.”
The UK government will also work with the Mount Sinai Health System, the Texas Medical Center and Cedars-Sinai to share the best of practices and harness new technologies.
The US is the worst-affected country in the world with more than 33 million people affected and almost 60,000 deaths. The UK is the seventh most-affected state with 4.5 million affected and over 128,000 deaths.