Silk road ambitions must contain epidemics, says WHO chief

22 Aug 17

China’s proposed ’belt and road’ network of surface and sea links to Europe will need measures in place to prevent the spread of epidemics, World Health Organisation director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Tedros has said.

Speaking at the Belt and Road Forum for Health Cooperation in Beijing, he said the proposal from China’s President Xi for a ‘health silk road’ was “visionary” and would strengthen and renew ancient links between cultures and people.

Tedros said there must be systems established to contain outbreaks or crises where they start to prevent them from becoming epidemics, with better response capacity for emergencies, in particular in countries that are the scene of conflict.

“The Belt and Road Initiative contains the fundamentals to achieve universal health coverage: infrastructure, access to medicines, human resources, and a platform to share experience and promote best practices,” he said.

He praised China as a “world leader in disease surveillance and outbreak control”

The Belt and Road initiative involves the long-term creation of land ‘belts’ of road and rail from China to western Russia, Siberia, Turkey, Singapore and Myanmar, roughly following the paths of the mediaeval Silk Road.

The ‘health silk road’ is a proposal to improve the health of people along these routes.

An accompanying planned sea link to the Mediterranean is known as the ‘maritime silk road’.

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