British PM Johnson urges G-7 accord on Covid-19 vaccine passports

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for agreement on how vaccine passports are going to work. PHOTO: AFP

MONTREAL (AFP) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants the upcoming Group of Seven (G-7) summit to reach agreement on Covid-19 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," he said in an interview broadcast on Sunday (May 30) by Canadian public channel CBC.

"There has to be some sort of agreement then, at the G-7 level to start, on how travel and passports are going to work."

Mr Johnson was speaking ahead of a June 11-13 summit of the G-7 economic powers (US, Canada, Japan, Britain, France, Germany and Italy) which he will host in Cornwall, at the south-western tip of England.

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

To date, 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.

Mr Johnson said it was also a bad time "for believers in global cooperation, because the world simply became balkanised", with many countries slow to share stocks of protective equipment, medicines and vaccines. "We've got to do better than this."

"Vaccination has got to be a global enterprise," he said in the interview taped on Friday.

The Prime Minister said 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, Mr Johnson set a more ambitious target, saying: "We need to get this done by the end of next year."

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

"But," he added, "I'm not going to exclude any possibility."

Mr Johnson, who himself was hospitalised last year with a serious case of Covid-19, has faced sharp criticism in Britain for his early handling of the pandemic there.

The G-7 summit will be an in-person affair. The group was set to meet last summer in the US, but Covid-19 concerns led to the meeting's cancellation.

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