WHO’s Tedros ‘confident’ of eventual pandemic treaty deal

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The head of the World Health Organisation on Monday voiced confidence that countries would one day reach a deal on a pandemic accord after failing to produce an agreement last week.

Health officials from the WHO’s 194 member states are seeking to wrap up more than two years of negotiations on new rules for responding to pandemics during the May 27-June 1 World Health Assembly in Geneva.

However, the top prize, a legally-binding pandemic treaty to shore up the world’s defences against future pathogens after COVID-19 killed millions, has proved elusive, and negotiators failed to produce a draft deal on Friday (May 24) for formal approval by the assembly this week.

“Of course, we all wish that we had been able to reach a consensus on the agreement in time for this health assembly, and cross the finish line,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in his opening address.

Negotiations are still ongoing for an update to existing health rules on outbreaks and negotiators say that a deal is close.

During the session, WHO member states decided not to invite Taiwan to the organisation’s annual assembly after China appealed for it to remain sidelined.

Taiwan is excluded from most international organisations because of objections by China, which considers the democratically governed island its territory.

Chen Xu, China’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, said there was no political basis for Taiwan to participate in the WHA and accused Taiwanese officials of deliberately politicising the issue of health.