Fresh appeal for Britain to help roll out worldwide Covid vaccines

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Mr Johnson was urged to show greater leadership in the fight against the virus  (PA Wire)
Mr Johnson was urged to show greater leadership in the fight against the virus (PA Wire)

Boris Johnson on Monday came under growing cross-party pressure for Britain to step up efforts to jab the world against Covid-19.

Just hours after the Prime Minister landed in New York for a meeting of the UN general assembly, three former international development secretaries issued fresh appeals for the UK to do more to supply vaccines to developing nations.

They urged Mr Johnson to show greater leadership in the fight against the virus, stressing it was the “right thing to do” to help poorer nations, often with limited healthcare systems, and would reduce the risk of a more deadly variant emerging and being imported into the UK.

Former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell told the Standard: “It’s clearly hugely in our national interest to do more to vaccinate poor countries with historic links to the UK.

“That way we will be showing leadership and other countries in the G7 will follow our example.”

He added: “It’s not only the right thing to do but it will protect British citizens and British interests.”

Justine Greening, who succeeded Mr Mitchell, stressed: “Keeping ourselves safe means a comprehensive vaccination strategy at home but also one internationally, especially for countries with far less healthcare capacity than our own.”

She added: “In the coming weeks and months it’s important the Government steps up action to tackle the ongoing international Covid challenge.”

New Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who is accompanying Mr Johnson on his US trip, signalled that the Government is to push for a stronger united response to the pandemic.

She tweeted: “Arrived in New York for #UNGA76. Key focus @UN this week will be: Discussing our approach to building strong security, diplomatic and economic partnerships globally.

“Coordinating an international response on Afghanistan. Improving global access to Covid vaccines.”

A government spokeswoman added: “We have committed to donate 100 million doses by June 2022 and have already delivered over nine million doses to developing nations across Africa and Asia.”

On his three-day trip to America, Mr Johnson was also due to:

Hold talks with Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro, a climate change sceptic, during the assembly in New York today.

Urge Amazon boss Jeff Bezos to address the firm’s tax record and help fix the climate crisis during diplomatic efforts to encourage the world’s richest to redouble their work to save the environment ahead of the COP26 summit in Glasgow in November.

Visit the White House for talks with President Joe Biden, with topics expected to include Afghanistan, Brexit, climate change and relaxing Covid restrictions on UK nationals being able to fly to the US.

Ms Truss was meeting Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian today to call for the immediate release of UK nationals including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who are being detained in Iran.

World health chiefs have urged wealthy nations, pressing ahead with booster programmes, to deliver millions more doses for the Covax initiative, which is aiming to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines around the globe.

Labour former international development secretary Hilary Benn said: “It has to be a global effort. It’s self-evident that nobody is safe until everybody is vaccinated.”

Liberal Democrat former overseas aid minister Baroness Featherstone added: “A global pandemic needs global co-operation.”

The ex-Hornsey and Wood Green MP emphasised: “Potentially dangerous variants are the challenge that must be met.”

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