Sunday, January 16, 2022

Official: WTO Postpones Key Meeting Over COVID Option | AP News

GENEVA (AP) – The World Trade Organization is postponing its conference of government ministers, which will open on Tuesday after Switzerland imposed new travel restrictions following the emergence of an alarming new variant of the coronavirus, a trade representative from Geneva said Friday.

The MC12 conference at the WTO headquarters in Geneva was intended to discuss such key issues as the long-awaited agreement on fisheries subsidies, seen as the main way to prevent overfishing in the world’s seas, and an attempt to abandon the protection of patents and other intellectual property rights. associated with COVID-19 vaccines.

Ambassadors from 164 WTO member countries agreed to postpone the four-day conference after new Swiss travel restrictions mean that all participants will not be able to attend in person and a virtual meeting was not seen as an option, the official said on condition. anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Switzerland’s health department said all direct flights from southern Africa have been banned, and as of Friday evening, all people arriving from the region, as well as from Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel – other locations where the variant has been detected – must present COVID negative. -19 pass the test and go to quarantine for 10 days.

Elsewhere in town on Friday, the World Health Organization classified the alarming new variant, which was first identified in South Africa as a highly-transmitted variant of concern, and named it the omicron variant – as part of the Greek-letter identification system used by the healthcare system. UN. agency.

South Africa’s Delegation to the WTO has spearheaded a movement to weaken the protection of patents and other intellectual property that underpin tools to combat the pandemic, including vaccines, diagnostics and therapies, in the hope of making them more accessible to developing countries. Many European countries, including Switzerland, the EU and the UK, have opposed the idea, saying it could stifle innovation.

Concerns over a new omicron variant drove equity markets down Friday amid concerns over broader economic implications, including travel restrictions.

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