Germany, WHO announce creation of new data hub to fight pandemics

Weekly German cabinet meeting
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GENEVA/BERLIN (Reuters) -German Health Minister Jens Spahn called on Wednesday for a "global reset" in the fight against pandemics as Germany and the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the creation of a new global hub in Berlin for gathering data on pandemics.

Speaking at a virtual news conference attended also by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the head of the WHO, Spahn said the world was still insufficiently prepared for pandemics.

"We need to identify pandemic and epidemic risks as quickly as possible, wherever they occur in the world," Spahn said.

"For that aim, we need to strengthen the global early warning surveillance system with improved collection of health-related data and inter-disciplinary risk analysis."

The new hub in Berlin, bringing together governmental, academic and private sector institutions, aims to harness global data to predict, prevent and respond to pandemic and epidemic risks worldwide.

"There will be more viruses that will emerge with the potential of sparking pandemics," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the news conference.

The WHO has been criticised for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, sparked by a new coronavirus that emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

Three independent panels are due to report this month on how the WHO and member states reacted, and propose changes. Tedros has said repeatedly that the U.N. agency is open to reforms.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Alexander Ratz in BerlinWriting by Gareth Jones)

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