The UK’s Presidency of the Group of Seven this year has India among three guest countries and its participation in a series of crucial talks scheduled for June remains on track, albeit virtually due to the pandemic crisis.
India is among the guest countries invited to join the 2021 G7 Health Ministers’ Meeting to be held at Oxford University on June 3 and 4, bringing together health leaders from the world’s leading democracies to agree on life-saving action in critical areas of global health.
The University of Oxford has been chosen for its role at the heart of the global fight against Covid-19, with world-leading clinical trials and its not-for-profit partnership with AstraZeneca on Covid-19 vaccines and also the partnership with Serum Institute of India. Attendees will come together to address the issues of global health security, antimicrobial resistance, clinical trials, and digital health and the discussions will inform the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Cornwall a week later between June 11 and 13.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Oxford is the birthplace of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and at the heart of British life sciences. Oxford is a perfect location to stage pivotal meetings on how the world readies itself to combat future health threats.
“Collectively we can build back better from this virus and, as I gather with my Ministerial counterparts from the major democratic nations, we have an opportunity to learn from this pandemic and take measures that will develop global health security.”
The summit forms part of the UK’s 2021 presidency of the Group of Seven – which includes the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the US and the European Union – and will bring together health ministers from these nations in a physical setting. The UK government said that the two-day talks will also engage virtually with the G7 Presidency’s guest countries – the Republic of India, Republic of Korea, Australia and Republic of South Africa.
“Oxford University is honoured to host the G7 Health Ministers. This past year has demonstrated just how much can be accomplished when universities, business and government work together to advance global health,” said Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford.
“We hope that in the course of this meeting insights and information will be shared, ideas generated, and lasting partnerships forged. In particular, we hope that as a result of this meeting plans will be developed to ensure that we are never again caught unprepared for a pandemic,” she said.
There will be a working ministerial dinner on the evening of June 3 attended by senior representatives from the life sciences industry, who are planning to convene concurrently in Oxford to discuss the themes under the UK Prime Minister’s Pandemic Preparedness Partnership between public and private sectors and key issues on the health agenda for the summit.
“As a county with a world-class reputation for cutting-edge research and innovation in life sciences and healthcare, we look forward to welcoming our guests and hope that their time here contributes to strengthening partnerships and boosting collaboration in managing current and future global health threats,” said Councillor Liz Leffman, Oxfordshire County Council Leader.
Oxford City Council Leader, Councillor Susan Brown, added: “Our city has rightly become synonymous with excellence in life science research and manufacturing. We are proud that Oxford’s name is carried by the vaccine used most widely across the world.
“There is a real opportunity for those gathered to step up international support for the vaccination programmes still only in their early stages in many developing countries, particularly in Africa.”
G7 countries account for two thirds of the world’s pharmaceutical markets and the three vaccines licensed for use in the UK were all developed in G7 nations – the UK, US and Germany. As host of this year’s G7 Presidency, the UK says it is determined to work with its partners to "build back better" from coronavirus and strengthen global preparedness for potential future pandemics.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to join the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Cornwall next month virtually, the British government has said after the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had announced that the PM would not be attending the meeting in person.
Modi was invited by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as India is one of three guest nations, alongside Australia and South Korea, as part of Britain's Indo-Pacific foreign policy focus. The guest leaders would be invited to take part in certain sessions of the G7.
“We are of course disappointed that Prime Minister Modi will not be able to attend the G7 in person because of domestic coronavirus priorities, but we look forward to welcoming him to the summit virtually,” a UK government spokesperson said.
“We will continue to work closely with India in the run up to and during the summit on our shared goals for the future,” the spokesperson said.
Officials in Britain have indicated that they do not expect the change of travel plans to detract from any of the planned discussions at the meeting.
The MEA had earlier confirmed that the Covid-19 situation in the country had led to Prime Minister Modi cancelling plans to travel to the UK.
“While appreciating the invitation to the Prime Minister by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to attend the G7 summit as a special invitee, given the prevailing COVID-19 situation, it has been decided that the Prime Minister will not attend the G-7 Summit in person,” an MEA official spokesperson said.
The move follows the G7 Foreign and Development Ministers Meeting held in London earlier in May, where Minister of External Affairs Dr. S Jaishankar participated as a guest of UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.