Boris Johnson has pledged Britain’s support for a new global surveillance network to spot emerging diseases before they can cause fresh pandemics.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is leading work to develop the “global pandemic radar” to monitor and track new infections and variants.
The UK and the British-based Wellcome Trust are among the nations and other organisations supporting the initiative.
Downing Street said it would build on British health security expertise to create a network of surveillance hubs, expected to be up and running before the end of the year.
Speaking ahead of a global health summit hosted by Italy and the EU on Friday, Mr Johnson said ensuring the world was better prepared for future health threats was an “absolute priority” for the UK’s G7 presidency.
“The world must never be caught unawares again by a virus spreading among us unchecked,” he 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.
“A global pandemic radar will ensure that we are vigilant to new variants and emerging pathogens, and can rapidly develop the vaccines and treatments needed to stop them in their tracks.”
The head of the Wellcome Trust, Sir Jeremy 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.
“We failed to address these gaps following other epidemics and we must act now before countries move on from this pandemic.
“This commitment from the UK, as president of the G7, will be hugely important in achieving these aims. There is no time to spare in making this aspiration a reality.”