Developing Countries: Coronavirus

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office written question – answered at on 24 February 2021.

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Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour

To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they have received from (1) NGOs, and (2) others, about (a) the World Trade Organization’s proposed ‘Waiver from certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement for the prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19’ (IP/C/W/669), and (b) the need of developing countries for immediate access to the COVID-19 vaccines currently available; what assessment they have made of any such representations; and what assessment they have made of (i) the humanitarian needs of people in developing countries, and (ii) the need to avoid new opportunities for the development and spread of COVID-19 mutations.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

The UK is committed to rapid, equitable access to safe and effective vaccines, and has committed £548 million to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) to ensure COVID-19 vaccine access for low- and middle-income countries. We do not consider waiving intellectual property (IP) rights to be an appropriate course of action in boosting the manufacturing of safe, effective, and quality vaccines. The existing intellectual property framework has mobilised research and development to deliver a host of new medicines and technologies to detect, treat, and defend against COVID-19.

According to the UN Global Humanitarian Overview, 235 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection in 2021. Humanitarian needs are the largest on record, driven in large part by the direct and indirect consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The UK is a major humanitarian donor, providing over £2 billion in assistance to humanitarian crises in the last financial year. The emergence of new COVID-19 variants serves as a powerful reminder that viruses mutate by their very nature. As a result, over 4000 SARS-CoV-2 variants have been identified across the globe. The UK's world-leading genomic sequencing continues to monitor these variants as they arise and develop, and we will offer this expertise to identify new variants to countries who do not have the resources to do so.

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