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WHO launches global network to tackle coronaviruses | The Guardian Nigeria News

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has unveiled a new network for coronaviruses (CoViNet) to facilitate and coordinate global expertise and capacities for early and accurate detection, monitoring and assessment of SARS-CoV-2, MERS-CoV and novel coronaviruses of public health importance.

CoViNet is a network of global laboratories with expertise in human, animal and environmental coronavirus surveillance and the network currently includes 36 laboratories from 21 countries in all 6 WHO regions.

According to WHO, ‘CoViNet expands on the WHO COVID-19 reference laboratory network established during the early days of the pandemic. Initially, the lab network was focused on SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, but will now address a broader range of coronaviruses, including MERS-CoV and potential new coronaviruses.

Representatives of the laboratories met in Geneva on 26 – 27 March to finalize an action plan for 2024-2025 so that WHO Member States are better equipped for early detection, risk assessment, and response to coronavirus-related health challenges.

The CoViNet meeting brings together global experts in human, animal, and environmental health, embracing a comprehensive One Health approach to monitor and assess coronavirus evolution and spread. The collaboration underscores the importance of enhanced surveillance, laboratory capacity, sequencing, and data integration to inform WHO policies and support decision-making.

WHO’s Acting Director, Department of Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness and Prevention, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, said that Coronaviruses have time and again demonstrated their epidemic and pandemic risk. She commended partners from around the world who are working to better understand high-threat coronaviruses like SARS, MERS and COVID-19 and to detect novel coronaviruses.”

Kerkhove explained that the new global network for coronaviruses will ensure timely detection, monitoring and assessment of coronaviruses of public health importance.
She noted that data generated through CoViNet’s efforts will guide the work of WHO’s Technical Advisory Groups on Viral Evolution (TAG-VE) and Vaccine Composition (TAG-CO-VAC) and others, ensuring global health policies and tools are based on the latest scientific information.

In a related development, WHO Member States have agreed to resume negotiations aimed at finalising a pandemic agreement and making all countries of the world better prepared for, and able to effectively and equitably respond to future pandemics.

At the ninth meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB9) which ended on 28th March, 2024, government negotiators discussed all articles from the draft agreement, including adequate financing for pandemic preparedness, equitable access to medical countermeasures needed during pandemics and health workforce strengthening.

WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, observed that the Member States are fully aware of how important the pandemic agreement is for protecting future generations from the suffering we endured through the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said: “I thank them for their clear commitment to finding common ground and finalizing this historic agreement in time for the World Health Assembly.”

Next month’s resumption of INB9 will be a critical milestone ahead of the Seventy-seventh World Health Assembly, starting May 27, 2024, at which Member States are scheduled to consider the proposed text of the world’s first pandemic agreement for adoption.

Also speaking, Co-Chair of the INB Bureau, Dr Precious Matsoso stated that “There is clear recognition from governments that the goal of a pandemic agreement is to prepare the world for preventing and responding to future pandemics, built on consensus, solidarity and equity.

She said, “These goals must remain our North Star as we move toward the finalization of this historic, pressing commitment for the world. We know that if we fail, we will be failing humanity, including all those who suffered from COVID-19, and those at risk of future pandemics.”

Fellow INB Bureau Co-Chair, Mr Roland Driece, said: “Governments said clearly, we cannot fail to reach an agreement at the next World Health Assembly to make the world healthier, fairer and safer from pandemics. We are at the finishing line and we are committed to maximizing the remaining negotiations to reach the result the entire world needs.”

In December 2021, the World Health Assembly met in a Special Session, the second-ever since WHO’s founding in 1948, and decided to establish the INB to draft and negotiate a WHO convention, agreement, or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.

The process has involved the participation of other United Nations system bodies, non-state actors, other relevant stakeholders, and the public.

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