Covid-19: Boris Johnson urges G7 countries to 'move together' to vaccinate whole world

19 February 2021, 15:31 | Updated: 19 February 2021, 21:05

Boris Johnson has urged G7 countries to "move together" to vaccinate the whole world
Boris Johnson has urged G7 countries to "move together" to vaccinate the whole world. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Boris Johnson has urged G7 countries to "move together" to vaccinate the whole world as he tries to rally leaders to work together in the fight against Covid-19.

The Prime Minister chaired a virtual meeting of G7 leaders, including US President Joe Biden, to discuss the international response to the crisis.

Mr Johnson urged them to back an ambitious target of funding the development of vaccines for emerging diseases in 100 days in future - a third of the time it took to develop the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.

Read more: Covid cases fall in all regions of England as number vaccinated nears 17 million

Addressing a virtual gathering of world leaders from No10, he said: "Science is finally getting the upper hand on Covid, which is a great, great thing and long overdue.

"But there is no point in us vaccinating our individual populations - we've got to make sure the whole world is vaccinated because this is a global pandemic and it's no use one country being far ahead of another, we've got to move together.

"So, one of the things that I know that colleagues will be wanting to do is to ensure that we distribute vaccines at cost around the world - make sure everybody gets the vaccines that they need so that the whole world can come through this pandemic together."

Leaders of the G7 countries held a virtual meeting on Friday
Leaders of the G7 countries held a virtual meeting on Friday. Picture: PA Images

He has also asked the G7, made up of the US, Japan, Canada, Germany, France and Italy along with the UK, to increase funding for Covax to ensure vaccines are reaching all corners of the globe.

The PM confirmed yesterday that the UK will share the majority of its surplus doses with the international initiative to support developing countries.

Read more: Spain and USA could be next countries on quarantine 'red list'

Decisions on timing and the scale of any surplus will be decided later in the year, although Government sources indicated that well over 50% of excess doses would go to the Covax initiative.

The PM will also call on leaders to support efforts for the future, including slashing the time taken to develop and approve new vaccines and treatments in plans set out by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi).

Emmanuel Macron joined the virtual G7 meeting to discuss the international Covid-19 response
Emmanuel Macron joined the virtual G7 meeting to discuss the international Covid-19 response. Picture: PA Images

Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance will work with the World Health Organisation and Cepi, along with industry and scientific experts, to draw up plans to speed up the process.

Mr Johnson also urged the G7 leaders to work together on "building back better" from the pandemic.

He jokingly said it was a slogan that President Biden had "nicked" from the UK used, saying: "I think he may have nicked it from us but I certainly nicked it from somewhere else - probably some UN disaster relief programme."

Read more: Lockdown driving down coronavirus rates but they remain high, study finds

Mr Biden could be seen laughing on the video call on the screen inside the Cabinet Room.

Praising the cooperation of G7 leaders in the past year, the PM added: "The G7 is the great gathering of like-minded, liberal, free-trading democracies. It is a very, very important forum.

"We stand together on many issues around the world - whether it is our views on the coup in Myanmar, where our foreign ministers jointly expressed their strong view, or on the detention of Alexei Navalny in Moscow, where again we have condemned it."

Friday's video conference is the first meeting of G7 leaders since April 2020 and comes ahead of a summit in Cornwall in June.

Officials believe that event will be able to go ahead in person, although it will be scaled back compared to previous meetings to respect social distancing rules.

Huge efforts have been devoted to the arrangements, including a rigorous testing regime and system of "bubbles".

As well as the regular G7 members, the PM has invited the leaders of India, South Korea and Australia to attend as part of his agenda of creating a 'D10' of leading democracies.

He has already called for an international treaty on pandemic preparedness and said he wants to ensure the lack of international co-operation going into the pandemic should not be mirrored in future.