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PM Pledges £25 M for Pandemic Preparedness Fund

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced £25 million of UK funding to help found a new World Bank fund for future pandemic preparedness.

Mr Johnson said: "While the worst days of the coronavirus pandemic are, thankfully, behind us, we cannot be complacent. The next potential pandemic could emerge any moment and with it the devastating human and economic consequences we have experienced over the last two and a half years.

"We must ensure we learn the lessons of COVID-19 and are better prepared next time. We owe it to the people of the world to say, 'never again'."

Fund will also Help Countries Manage COVID as an Endemic Disease

At the ongoing G7 Summit today, leaders of the Group of Seven rich nations gathered in the Bavarian Alps will discuss the importance of investing in preparedness and other measures to prevent history repeating itself, as well as helping countries to manage COVID as an endemic disease.

The PM said that the pandemic had "caused far-reaching economic devastation", and that stopping any future one from ever happening again "will require a concerted and coordinated international effort".

The new Financial Intermediary Fund for pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response, will be one of multiple such funds hosted by the World Bank, which describes them as: "Financial arrangements that typically leverage a variety of public and private resources in support of international initiatives, enabling the international community to provide a direct and coordinated response to global priorities."

The latest one will provide funding to countries whose healthcare systems are "dangerously unprepared for the challenges caused by large outbreaks of infectious diseases". It will ensure that they can quickly respond to, and as far as possible contain, outbreaks, before they spread across the world.

Help to Fill Financing Gaps Exposed by COVID

This will help to fill some of the financing gaps exposed by COVID-19, particularly insufficient financing for preparedness in national health systems and disease surveillance at country, regional, and global levels, Mr Johnson said. "Crucially, the fund can help catalyse countries' own financing, so the world is as equipped as possible whenever and wherever a new public health risk emerges."

David Malpass, president of the World Bank Group, said: "I welcome the UK’s support for the new Financial Intermediary Fund to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response functions in developing countries.

"The fund will provide a dedicated stream of additional, long-term funding to complement the work of existing institutions, and [will] operate with high standards of transparency and accountability.

"COVID-19 highlighted the urgent need for coordinated action to build stronger health systems and mobilise additional resources to prepare for the next pandemic in countries, regions, and around the world."

Chance of Another Pandemic in the Next 25 Years 'Could be as High as 50%'

Although pandemics used to be described as 'once-in-100-years' events, the Prime Minster’s Office said that the chance of a pandemic on the scale of COVID-19 occurring in the next 25 years "could be as high as 50%". A key lesson of coronavirus was that "even small investments in pandemic preparedness can have huge returns" in avoiding economic damage in the long-term.

Governments, NGOs, and private donors have been encouraged to donate to the new fund, which was called for by G20 Finance Ministers in April. At last week's meeting of the G20 countries in Indonesia, health and finance ministers discussed much the same issues as the G7 and described the establishment of a new Financial Intermediary Fund for pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response as "urgent", stating similarly that investing in health systems resilience was massively more cost-effective than mitigating the consequences of failure.

However they also noted that while COVID-19 has been the overwhelming focus of recent attention, the World Health Organization has reported that 10 million people fell ill and 1.5 million died from tuberculosis in 2020, and that HIV and malaria continue to be a major challenge for many low- and middle-income countries.

In addition, the G20 heard, by 2050, the "silent pandemic of antibiotic resistance" is expected to kill more people than cancer and road traffic accidents combined, and is a significantly rising concern that needs also to be integrated into future pandemic surveillance and early warning programs.

The funding announced by the Prime Minister today will establish the UK as a founding donor to the Financial Intermediary Fund for pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response, alongside the US, EU, and others.

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