Boris Johnson has called for an ‘early warning system’ to alert countries about the possibility of a pandemic – like the one the EU has in place that the UK is set to leave from the end of the year.
Johnson is to make a speech on video link via the United Nations General Assembly to encourage health data-sharing agreements covering every country.
The prime minister will make the plea as part of his five-point plan for countries to cope better with pandemics.
He will also encourage similar schemes to those already in place with the EU – like the sharing of resources such as personal protective equipment and fewer trade barriers on essential health products.
He is expected to say: “After nine months of fighting Covid, the very notion of the international community looks tattered.
“We know that we cannot continue in this way. Unless we unite and turn our fire against our common foe, we know that everyone will lose.”
The UK is expected to leave the EU’s version of the warning system after the Brexit transition period ends.
Matt Hancock’s health department was said to be keen to retain membership of the system, but Downing Street reportedly rejected the demands.
Health officials believe leaving the Early Warning and Response System would put public health at risk, pointing out that the EU system has helped to coordinate the response to the virus, as well as SARS and the bird flu outbreak.
The online system, launched in 1988, ties together the European Commission, governments and key agencies to control threats to health across borders.
In January, Johnson’s government was accused of ignoring the early warnings coming from China about the pandemic. The prime minister is reported to have only chaired COBRA meetings on the virus six weeks after it arrived in the UK.