WTO postpones ministerial conference amid fears over new Covid variant

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has decided to postpone its ministerial conference indefinitely after an outbreak of a particularly transmissible strain of the coronavirus forced several governments to impose travel restrictions.

Iran PressEurope: The conference was to begin from November 30 and end on December 3 in Geneva. The decision was taken by the general council of the WTO at an emergency meeting late Friday, a statement from the world body said.

The meeting was called by Council Chair Dacio Castillo, Reuters reported.

"Given these unfortunate developments and the uncertainty that they cause, we see no alternative but to propose to postpone the ministerial conference and reconvene it as soon as possible when conditions allow," Castillo told the council.

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the travel constraints meant that many ministers and senior delegates would not be able to participate in face-to-face negotiations at the conference. This would render participation on an equal basis impossible, she said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a new coronavirus variant to be "of concern" and named it Omicron.

It had a large number of mutations, and early evidence suggested an increased reinfection risk, the WHO said.

It was first reported to the WHO from South Africa on 24 November, and has also been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.


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