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Since its emergence in Asia late last year, Covid-19 has spread to every continent except Antarctica. As at 14 May 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported the following figures for the current pandemic:

  • Confirmed cases: 4,218,212.
  • Confirmed deaths: 290,242.
  • Countries, areas or territories with cases: 216.

The UK had the fourth-highest number of confirmed cases worldwide (with 226,467), behind the United States (1,340,098); the Russian Federation (242,271) and Spain (228,030).

On 30 January 2020, the WHO’s director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, declared the pandemic a “public health emergency of international concern”. On 5 February, the WHO announced that $675 million was needed for a new Covid-19 preparedness and response global plan, covering the period until April. The plan has since been updated. The latest version provides guidance on how national and subnational public health systems should respond to Covid-19. The UN has since launched a coordinated appeal for a multibillion-dollar emergency relief package for low and middle-income countries. In addition, a range of international bodies and coalitions are working on responses to the impact of Covid-19 in various areas, from health equipment and vaccine research to development aid and wider economic support.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said “it’s humanity against the virus—we are in this together, and together we will prevail”. The UK Government has stated that it has a four-point plan in respect of international action on Covid-19: “1) co-ordinating the global health response; 2) accelerating the search for a vaccine, treatments and testing; 3) securing a sound economic response; and 4) bringing our people home”. Following on from earlier international coordination, the UK co-hosted a global response pledging conference on 4 May and will host a global vaccine summit on 4 June. However, on 6 May, former prime minister Theresa May wrote in the Times (£) that the world had shown an “inability to forge a coherent international response” to Covid-19 to date.

On 18 May 2020, the House of Lords is due to debate a motion moved by Baroness Sugg (Conservative) that “the virtual proceedings do consider the international response to Covid-19”.

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