The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has urged the World Trade Organization (WTO) to finalise negotiations on the waiver of provisions of an agreement on trade-related intellectual property rights to allow more countries to produce Covid-19 vaccines.

In a statement following an extraordinary summit in the Mozambican capital Maputo on Wednesday, SADC urged member states and the international community to support the proposal in order to ensure a more efficient response to the Covid-19 global pandemic.

The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is an international legal agreement between all the member nations of the WTO which establishes minimum standards for the regulation by governments of different forms of intellectual property as applied to nationals of other states.

South Africa and India have been pushing for a temporary waiver of intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines and treatment, in order to allow the scaling-up of research, development, manufacturing and supply of medical products essential to combating the coronavirus.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa took the push to a recent G7 summit, convincing the leaders of the world’s major economies to open a debate at the WTO about introducing a waiver to allow developing countries to produce their own Covid-19 vaccines.

The SADC summit also called for the end of vaccine nationalism and for equal access to drugs by all countries, urging all regional citizens to continue observing and adhering to Covid-19 preventive measures.

Addressing the SADC council of ministers on Tuesday, executive secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax noted that the region was experiencing a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“After experiencing an uptick in Covid-19 cases and unprecedented mortality rates across the region in the second wave early this year, we are now in a third wave, which some member states have technically entered into,“ she said.

“The region needs to remain vigilant in the fight against the pandemic, by observing all the precautions as guided by health authorities.”

The summit further called upon nations that were barring SADC residents from travelling to their countries based on origin and the type of Covid-19 vaccine they had received, to reconsider their positions.

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