Cameron Announces Rapid-Response U.K. Team to Tackle Epidemics

David Cameron
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

David Cameron will announce plans to have a team of British epidemic experts on call to reach any part of the world within 48 hours, after criticizing the World Health Organization for failing to deal with last year’s Ebola outbreak fast enough.

The U.K. prime minister arrives Sunday at the two-day Group of Seven summit at Schloss Elmau in southern Germany to discuss the global economy, relations with Russia, development and the fight against terrorist groups including Islamic State.

Cameron will announce 20 million pounds ($30 million) of funding for research into how to tackle outbreaks of disease, with a team of as many as 10 epidemiologists to offer immediate advice, according to the prime minister’s office. He’ll also say clinical trials in this area will be fully transparent.

“The reality is that we will face an outbreak like Ebola again and that virus could be more aggressive and more difficult to contain; it is time to wake up to that threat,” Cameron said in an e-mailed statement. “As a world we must be far better prepared with better research, more drug development and a faster and more comprehensive approach to how we fight these things when they hit. The U.K. will lead the way but we need a truly global response.”

The prime minister said in November that governments needed to take a “serious look” at the WHO, whose own Director-General Margaret Chan said the previous month that her organization’s initial response to Ebola may not have matched the scale and complexity of the outbreak.

Cameron will also push for progress on the proposed trade deal between the European Union and the U.S., according to his office. On Russia, the G-7 is expected to issue a statement on its actions in Ukraine that will be a guide to EU leaders as they debate whether to renew economic sanctions next month.

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