A group of developing countries, including India, have argued at the World Trade Organization (WTO) that access to Covidrelated life-saving tools, including diagnostic tests, therapeutics and vaccines, remains concentrated in higher-income countries while many lowand middle-income countries still lag behind, and called for easing of patent and intellectual property rules.
After agreeing to a much watered-down package for patent waiver, trade ministers had sought an extension of the package to diagnostics & therapeutics, with some members seeking to accelerate the process. The deadline to decide was fixed as December 17 but even the definition of therapeutics & diagnostics is yet to be firmed up. South Africa, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt and Tanzania referred to a document, and highlighted how limited voluntary licensing for therapeutics had taken place with the flexibility limited to Paxlovid and Molnupiravir.
On diagnostics, they highlighted production is concentrated in high-income countries and that overreliance on imports has resulted in scarcity and high prices, which is restricting access to developing and poorer countries. At the end of 2021, only 0. 4% of the 3 billion tests reported globally were in low-income countries and underlined the need for expansion of local production to more locations.
The US, EU, Switzerland and Japan are among countries opposing it with Washington seen to be laying the delaying tactics again.