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World leaders must overcome differences to fight COVID-19, urges PM
World leaders must overcome differences to fight COVID-19, urges PM avatar

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Boris Johnson will warn the coronavirus pandemic has divided the international community, as he pledges hundreds of millions of pounds to the World Health Organisation to fight future viruses.

In a speech at the UN General Assembly the prime minister will warn that countries must work together and overcome the divisions created by the global health crisis or risk it spiralling out of control.

Mr Johnson will also make a large financial commitment to the WHO, making the UK the largest country-donor to the organisation just months after Donald Trump froze US funding.

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He will say: "After nine months of fighting COVID, the very notion of the international community looks tattered.

"We know that we cannot continue in this way. Unless we unite and turn our fire against our common foe, we know that everyone will lose.

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"Now is the time therefore – here at what I devoutly hope will be the first and last ever Zoom UNGA – for humanity to reach across borders and repair these ugly rifts."

The prime minister will also unveil an ambitious plan, timed to coincide with the UK presidency of the G7 next year, designed to prevent future global health crisis.

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In his pre-recorded speech, Mr Johnson will add: "Here in the UK, the birthplace of Edward Jenner who pioneered the world's first vaccine, we are determined to do everything in our power to work with our friends across the UN to heal those divisions and to heal the world."

Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer
Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer argue about coronavirus testing

The five point plan, developed with the Wellcome Trust and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to identify dangerous pathogens which could make the leap between animals and humans before they lead to COVID-like pandemics.

He will also commit to an extra £71m for 27 million vaccine doses for the UK to combat COVID-19 and spend £500m to help poorer nations tackle the virus.

Announcing the UK will increase funding to the WHO by 30 per cent Mr Johnson will call for countries to work together, not pull apart.

The £340m investment will be spent over the next four years and comes after President Trump criticised the WHO for failing to tackle the virus in the early stages. The UK funding will aim to ensure the organisation can be flexible and respond quickly to any future pandemic.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson giving his address on coronavirus
22 September: Boris Johnson's address to the nation

Mr Johnson will also set out further initiatives the UK plans to champion when it takes charge of the G7 next year, including a global pandemic early warning system, better manufacturing capability for treatments, global protocols for future health emergencies and a plan to reduce trade barriers to help nations respond more quickly in future.

In the early stages of the pandemic some nations increased tariffs on key goods such as soap, making it difficult for poorer nations to respond well.

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