The World Health Organization (WHO) could impose lockdown measures on the UK during a future pandemic under radical new powers, ministers fear.
Member states would be required to follow the agency’s instructions when responding to pandemics, including by introducing vaccination passportsborder closures and quarantine measures, under a project to update its regulations.
A new “pandemic treaty” under discussion would also force Britain to spend five per cent of its health budget on preparing for another virus outbreak.
Ministers are understood to be alarmed by plans to increase the powers of the WHO, allowing its governing body to require countries to hand over the prescription for vaccines, regardless of intellectual property rights, and counter information wrong.
Conservative MPs have written to ministers to warn of an “obvious ambition… for the WHO to move from being an advisory organization to an international watchdog.”
Foreign Office urges blocking powers
In their letter, seen by The Telegraph, they urge the Foreign Office to block powers that “seem to materially intrude on the UK’s ability to make its own rules and control its own budgets.”
Responding to concerns on Thursday, Andrew Mitchell, a foreign office minister, told The Telegraph that he would block any law that prevents the UK from setting its own health policy.
“The UK supports the pandemic treaty currently being negotiated by national governments, which could speed up the sharing of data on new pandemic threats so that we can respond quickly in future. future pandemics event,” he said.
“We are clear that we would never agree to anything that crosses our points of principle on sovereignty or prevents the UK from taking decisive action against future pandemics.”
Changes to make WHO advice ‘binding’
The rule changes have been proposed as part of plans to update the WHO’s International Health Regulations (IHR) in light of the coronavirus pandemic and establish a new Pandemic Preparedness Treaty.
the treaty was first proposed by world leaders including Boris Johnson in 2021 during the pandemic and was originally designed to improve alert systems, data sharing, and vaccine production to “encourage a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach.”
But among the 300 proposed amendments to the IHR are changes to make the WHO’s advice “binding” and introduce a new requirement for countries to recognize it as the global authority on public health measures.
The plan would require member countries to “recognize WHO as the guiding and coordinating authority for the international public health response…and commit to following WHO recommendations in their international public health response.”
If approved, the change would mean the WHO could impose border closures, quarantine measures and vaccine passports in all member countries, including the UK.
A draft of the treaty itself would commit member states to spending five percent of their health budgets, plus a proportion of GDP, preparing for a pandemic.
Six Conservative MPs led by Esther McVey, a former cabinet minister, have written to Mitchell asking for a vote in the House of Commons on the draft treaty and regulations before they are signed.
Ms McVey said: “There is, rightly, growing concern about the WHO Pandemic Treaty and International Health Regulations.
“The plans represent a significant shift for the organization from a member-led advisory body to a health authority with enforcement powers.
“This is particularly worrying given the poor record of the WHO in providing consistent, clear and scientifically sound advice for the management of international disease outbreaks.”
The letter has also been signed by Conservative MPs Sir John Redwood, David Davis, Philip Davies, Sir Christopher Chope and Danny Kruger.
Kruger said: “Coordination and cooperation in a public health emergency are sensible, but ceding control of health budgets and critical decision-making in a pandemic to an unelected international organization seems profoundly contrary to national autonomy and democratic responsibility”.
Campaigners also raised concerns about increasing the role of the WHO in identifying misinformation, after its experts ruled out the theory of the origin of Covid from the “laboratory leak” to later accept that “it remains on the table”.
Molly Kingsley, co-founder of the campaign group UsForThem, said: “We should all be concerned that the WHO is ordered to be the arbiter of truth about the pandemic, especially given its poor record during the pandemic, such as its claim that covid was definitely zoonotic. . in origin and his April 2020 denial of the role of natural immunity in protecting against infection.”