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WHO member states will work on a global agreement to deal with future pandemics

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks at the WHO headquarters in Geneva on Oct. 18.
Fabrice Coffrini
AFP via Getty Images
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks at the WHO headquarters in Geneva on Oct. 18.

Member states of the World Health Organization are banding together to make a plan to deal with future pandemics like the COVID-19 outbreak.

The World Health Assembly, the WHO's decision-making body, voted Wednesday to draft a "convention, agreement or other international instrument" on preventing, preparing for and responding to future pandemics.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO's director-general, said the coronavirus outbreak exposed flaws in the global health system but also showed a willingness among countries to work together to combat the crisis.

"The adoption of this decision is cause for celebration, and cause for hope, which we will need," Ghebreyesus said at the special session of the World Health Assembly.

"There are still differences of opinion about what a new accord could or should contain. But you have proven to each other and the world that differences can be overcome, and common ground can be found," he added.

The agreement to work on a plan to deal with future global pandemics comes as countries across the world continue to grapple with the current outbreak. The new highly transmissible omicron strain, recently dubbed a "variant of concern" by the WHO, has led to renewed public health restrictions and travel bans as governments scramble to contain its spread.

Ghebreyesus said the intergovernmental negotiating body drafting the new accord is scheduled to hold its first meeting by March 1 and submit its conclusions sometime in 2024.

This story first appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.

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