The Liberal Democrats have written to the Prime Minister calling for the UK to begin donating vaccines through the COVAX programme immediately.
The letter, co-signed by all the party’s MPs and spearheaded by Layla Moran, echoes calls the party made to join COVAX as part of a ‘parallel rollout’ back in February. With the situation in India now worsening, the urgency of the call has intensified.
It also highlighted how aid cuts are making the global situation worse and called for a number of other proactive measures such as safely accelerating approval processes in regulatory bodies.
In the letter, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and International Development, Layla Moran MP said :
The UK must do its part and provide as many vaccines as possible to countries that do not have the wealth or the manufacturing capacity to acquire sufficient doses for their populations fast enough.
The UK Government still does not directly contribute vaccines to COVAX. Other countries, including Norway, have already started their parallel rollouts. This needs to change urgently. Scenes in India remind us that none of us are safe until we are all safe.
Cuts to the ODA budget this year will have dire consequences for international projects, collaborations and partnerships that are vital in our efforts to defeat the virus, including the sequencing of variants.
We urge you to act now to help save lives in India and around the world. None of us are safe from coronavirus until we all are.
Here’s the full text of the letter:
Dear Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and Health Secretary,
We are writing to express our deep concern with the situation in India.
The world is watching in horror as we see the reports of new cases rising, hospitals being overwhelmed and the lack of lifesaving equipment. On Tuesday, India recorded 320,000 new infections – that’s 17.6 million cases in total. The death toll now stands at 197,500.
While we welcome the news that the UK Government has announced that over 600 pieces of medical equipment will be sent to India, with 200 pieces of equipment including ventilators and oxygen concentrators having already arrived, we must be proactive in our global response to coronavirus if we are ever going to put a stop to this pandemic.
This will only be a drop in the ocean compared to what’s needed. In his written statement last week, the Foreign Secretary said £1.3bn of Official Development Assistance funding has been allocated to “Covid and global health”. Can you tell us, as a matter of urgency, how much of this funding has been allocated to India, and what plans the Government has to use ODA to assist them now, in their time of greatest need? How many more ventilators and oxygen concentrators will ODA provide for developing countries in the next year?
We recognise the Government’s early efforts to support COVAX, but we reiterate the calls we made to you in February. The UK must now take a leading position in rolling out vaccines worldwide. The UK has secured at least 340 million doses of coronavirus vaccines for a population of 66 million, vaccinated over 33 million people with their first dose and 12 million with their second. 95% of those in the JCVI priority groups have been vaccinated.
Yet the UK Government still does not directly contribute vaccines to COVAX. Other countries, including Norway, have already started their parallel rollouts.
This needs to change urgently. Scenes in India remind us that none of us are safe until we are all safe.
The UK must do its part and provide as many vaccines as possible to countries that do not have the wealth or the manufacturing capacity to acquire sufficient doses for their populations fast enough. We urge you to begin parallel rollout via COVAX without delay.
Moreover, there is growing evidence that cuts to the ODA budget this year will have dire consequences for international projects, collaborations and partnerships that are vital in our efforts to defeat the virus, including the sequencing of variants. We urge you to immediately reverse any ODA funding cuts to coronavirus-related projects around the world.
We don’t need to remind you that the situation in India, and elsewhere, threatens to breed new variants of Covid-19 that could undo so much of what we have achieved here in the UK, and threaten your plans to further ease restrictions.
The UK holds the G7 presidency. Now is the time to lead, not do the bare minimum and hide behind written statements, so we further call on the UK Government to:
Take proactive measures to show leadership on the world stage in fighting coronavirus by:
-Increasing the UK contribution to COVAX and to share doses with COVAX in parallel with the national vaccine rollout;
-Sharing UK vaccine manufacturers’ knowledge with C-TAP to increase vaccine manufacturing and the global supply of vaccines for future years, and further to prioritise supply to COVAX over bilateral deals;
-Accelerating approval processes in regulatory bodies in a safe and deliberate way;
-Tasking the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care to work with the WHO and other partners to invest in and help prepare their primary healthcare systems for
-COVID-19 vaccine distribution and to assist development of data systems on vaccine supply, distribution and uptake, including sex- and age-disaggregated sub-national data, to drive delivery, equality and impact;
-Working together with governments to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are free at the point of care without risk of financial hardship, beginning with healthcare workers and the most vulnerable, prioritising affected communities and key workers’ voices in decision-making, and ensuring gender equality is central to all actions.
-Provide detail on the country-specific allocation of the £1.3bn that has been allocated to Coronavirus and global health in the new Official Development Assistance budget; and
-Ensure there is dedicated support from the UK Government for British nationals in India.
-We urge you to act now to help save lives in India and around the world. None of us are safe from coronavirus until we all are.
We look forward to your response.
Layla Moran MP
Liberal Democrats Foreign Affairs and International Development Spokesperson, and the other ten Liberal Democrat MPs
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