Last reviewed 2 June 2021

Ahead of a Global Health Summit hosted by Italy and the EU, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has launched plans for a new Global Pandemic Radar to identify emerging Covid-19 variants and track new diseases around the world.

The pathogen surveillance network will, he explained, save lives and protect health systems by spotting diseases before they cause future pandemics and enabling the rapid development of vaccines, treatments and tests.

The Prime Minister has spoken to World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus and the WHO will lead an implementation group, supported by the Wellcome Trust, to launch this new international partnership.

The “Global Pandemic Radar” is expected to be fully up and running with a network of surveillance hubs before the end of 2021, significantly improving global health security going into next year.

“The world must never be caught unaware again by a virus spreading among us unchecked,” Mr Johnson said. “We need to build a system of disease surveillance fit for the 21st century, with real-time data sharing and rapid genomic sequencing and response.”

This announcement follows the publication of new analysis commissioned by the UK Government from Dr Jeremy Farrar, Chairman of the Wellcome Trust. This sets out the mechanisms for a global pathogen surveillance system that can identify new variants of Covid-19 and detect other diseases before they become pandemics.

The work builds on existing surveillance mechanisms and data sharing agreements for HIV, TB and malaria.

Dr Farrar said: “This pandemic has provided a stark wake-up call to the threat posed by a fast-moving infectious disease. We are long overdue the essential reinforcement of our local, national and international disease surveillance networks.”