Omicron variant: UK government created the conditions for variant to emerge
Date: 26 November 2021
Reacting to news that the WHO will name B.1.1.529 the ‘Omicron variant’, Tim Bierley, pharma campaigner at Global Justice Now, said:
“The UK has actively prevented low and middle-income countries from having equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines. We have created the conditions for this variant to emerge. It was entirely avoidable.
“For more than a year, South Africa, Botswana, and most countries have been calling for world leaders to waive intellectual property on coronavirus vaccines, tests and treatments, so they can produce their own jabs. It’s a vital measure that will be discussed at next week’s World Trade Organisation conference. But, so far, the UK and EU have recklessly blocked it from making progress.
“There have been countless warnings that super-variants could emerge if we do not remove artificial barriers to global vaccination. If and when this new variant starts to tear through the world, remember that the British government has led opposition to the plan that could have stopped it.”
Notes for editors
At next week’s World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference, ministers will discuss a proposal to waive intellectual property on Covid-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments. India and South African first proposed the waiver in October 2020, and the solution has the backing of more than 100 countries, including Botswana, the United States and Australia. It is supported by the World Health Organisation, over 170 former world leaders and Nobel Laureates, and figures ranging from the Pope to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, with a petition signed by more than 13 million people. But the WTO operates via consensus and the UK and EU have so far blocked the proposal.
Joe Karp-Sawey, Media Manager, Global Justice Now
Image: Skrypnykov Dmytro/Shutterstock