The prime minister has declared that the world “must never be caught unawares” by another pandemic, as he backed a new global surveillance network to detect emerging diseases.

A “global pandemic radar” is being developed by the World Health Organisation to monitor and track new infections and variants in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Boris Johnson said making sure the world is better prepared for health threats in the future was an “absolute priority” for the UK’s G7 presidency.

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“The world must never be caught unawares again by a virus spreading among us unchecked,” he said ahead of a global health summit hosted by Italy and the EU on Friday.

“We need to build a system of disease surveillance fit for the 21st century, with real-time data-sharing and rapid genomic sequencing and response.

“A global pandemic radar will ensure that we are vigilant to new variants and emerging pathogens, and can rapidly develop the vaccines and treatments needed to stop them in their tracks.”

The UK and the British-based Wellcome Trust are among those backing the initiative.

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Downing Street said it will build upon British health security expertise and set up a network of surveillance hubs.

The expectation is that the network will be up and running by the end of the year.

Sir Jeremy Farrar, the head of the Wellcome Trust, said: “This pandemic has provided a stark wake-up call to the threat posed by a fast-moving infectious disease.

“We are long overdue the essential reinforcement of our local, national and international disease surveillance networks.

“We failed to address these gaps following other epidemics and we must act now before countries move on from this pandemic.

“This commitment from the UK, as president of the G7, will be hugely important in achieving these aims. There is no time to spare in making this aspiration a reality.”

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