Gordon Brown warns ‘fake news’ risks preparations for next pandemic

Former prime minister Gordon Brown warned that “fake news” risked jeopardising a World Health Organisation mission to prepare for the next pandemic.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is seeking to get all 194 member countries to sign a new Global Pandemic Accord in May to ensure there is a united response if and when another pandemic emerges.

Mr Brown, 73, who was prime minister during the swine flu pandemic in 2009 and is now a WHO ambassador for global health finance, warned that a Global Pandemic Accord decided in December 2021 was being put at risk by “fake news” on social media ahead of the launch.

At the University of Glasgow on Tuesday, Mr Brown gave a speech about the treaty, along with the WHO’s director general Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, who received an honorary degree.

The former Labour Party leader warned that “falsehoods” including a rumour about the “ability to deploy a global police force of armed troops to enforce mandatory vaccinations and lockdowns”, were abounding on social media as part of a “disinformation campaign”.

Experts and fact-check services have made it clear that the treaty will not permit the WHO to override domestic policy decisions, as claimed online.

Mr Brown said: “More than two years ago after the loss of lives during covid everyone agreed a Global Pandemic Accord, a new international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, was essential.

“Everyone agreed that no one is safe anywhere until everyone is safe everywhere.

“The 194 countries who are members of the World Health Organisation decided in December 2021 to work towards an Accord to work together to prepare for and stem any new pandemic threat, including by achieving equitable access to vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.

“Establishing a strong global pact on pandemics is, in my view, essential to protect future generations from a repeat of the millions of deaths and the social and economic devastation which resulted from a lack of collaboration during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“The accord is due to be agreed at the World Health Assembly in May but now the Accord is being put at risk by a misinformation campaign through social media outlets that is falsely accusing the WHO.

“Among the falsehoods circulating are allegations that the WHO will take away the national sovereignty of countries; that it wants the power to forcibly vaccinate people; intends surveillance of people’s movements through digital passports; and that under the accord, will have the ability to deploy a global police force of armed troops to enforce mandatory vaccinations and lockdowns.

“All of these claims are wholly false, and governments must work to disavow them with clear facts.

“No country will cede any sovereignty, and no country will see their national laws set aside.

“It is time for countries to expose fake news disinformation campaigns by conspiracy theorists to torpedo a much-needed accord.

“This will be a test of our ability as a global community to resist the fragmentation of our world and instead cooperate on global problems that need global solutions.”

“On the occasion of Dr Tedros receiving a much deserved honorary degree from one of the great schools of medicine, Glasgow University, I want to urge governments round the world to support his determined and welcome efforts to secure the accord by May.

“It is time to rise for all of us to rise to this global challenge.”