G7 pressed to show way on vaccine passports

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants the upcoming Group of Seven summit to reach agreement on vaccine passports and to open talks on a “world treaty” to prepare for future pandemics.

“We need to have agreements on issues such as vaccine passports, Covid status certification and the rest,” Johnson told the Canadian public channel CBC.

“There has to be some sort of agreement then, at the G7 level to start, on how travel and passports are going to work.”

Johnson was speaking ahead of the June 11 to 13 summit of the G7 economic powers – United States, Canada, Japan, Britain, France, Germany and Italy – which he will host in Cornwall.

“What we need, I think, is a global treaty on pandemic preparedness,” he said, adding that 2020 had been a “terrible year for humanity.”

The pandemic has killed more than 3.5 million people worldwide. Britain was among the hardest-hit countries, though it has been recovering since beginning vaccinations. Johnson said it is also a bad time “for believers in global cooperation, because the world simply became balkanized,” with many countries slow to share stocks of protective equipment, medicines and vaccines.

“We’ve got to do better than this,” Johnson said. “Vaccination has got to be a global enterprise.”

It was crucial that developing countries receive vaccine supplies as quickly as possible.

Rather than the goal set by some of vaccinating the world by 2024 or 2025, Johnson set a more ambitious target, saying: “We need to get this done by the end of next year.”

As to the debate over the origins of the pandemic – which flared up recently when President Joe Biden ordered a new intelligence report on the problem – Johnson said he still leaned to the theory that it had spread from wild animals to humans, not leaked from a Chinese laboratory.

Johnson, who was hospitalized last year with a serious case of Covid, has faced sharp criticism in Britain for his early handling of the pandemic there.

The G7 summit will be an in-person affair. The group was set to meet last summer in the United States, but Covid concerns led to the meeting’s cancellation.

After Johnson’s interview aired, the Daily Telegraph reported that Britain is planning to drop vaccine passports as a legal requirement for large events.

The officials working on the review of Covid-19 status certificates believe there is no chance the law will be changed to mandate their use within Britain, the report added.

There has been mounting concern over the prospect of vaccine certificates voiced by the Conservative Party, as well as opposition lawmakers and civil rights groups. In April, Johnson also signaled the ethical issues posed by vaccine certification.

Meanwhile, the decision to lift final lockdown measures in England on June 21 will be made after data on infection, hospitalization, vaccination and new variants are assessed, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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