Health Ministers from the seven most developed democratic economies in the world Monday agreed the new coronavirus strain dubbed Omicron was “highly transmissible” and called for “urgent action.”
The officials convened virtually at the request of the United Kingdom to coordinate further joint actions. It was only the second time the group has held an emergency summit of this kind.
The international community faces the threat of a new highly communicable variant of covid-19, which requires urgent action, the ministers said in a joint statement after the meeting. The ministers praised the exemplary work of South Africa to detect the variant and alert others, the statement went on.
The G7 countries also recognized the strategic importance of ensuring access to vaccines, so as to prepare the world and provide operational assistance, to cope with the requirements of the situation that looks inevitable. The officials also pledged to continue to work closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) and international partners to share information and monitor Omicron.
The ministers promised to meet again in December, the statement went on.
The WHO has warned the Omicron variant presented a very high risk for the world and stressed that there were still many issues yet to be determined, particularly regarding the real danger the new strain represents.
Nevertheless, the overall risk related to Omicron is considered very high for a number of reasons, the WHO has warned so far. There is concerning preliminary evidence on Omicron suggesting, in contrast to previous [variants of concern], both potential immune escape and higher transmissibility that could lead to further surges with severe consequences. The new variant was first detected in South Africa, coinciding with an increase in COVID-19 cases in the region. Its appearance prompted border closures as well as screening measures around the world.
As time goes by, more cases are likely to be detected in additional countries, it was also reported Monday by health authorities.
The G7 health ministers also expressed strong backing for an international pathogen surveillance network within the WHO.
Global health security is too important to be left to chance, or goodwill, or shifting geopolitical currents, or the vested interests of companies and shareholders, WHO Director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the outset of the summit. He added the emergence of Omicron underlines the precarious nature of the global situation. Omicron demonstrates why the world needs a new accord on pandemics, he argued.