Covid-19 - the WHO and the UN (January 2024)

"The International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) are a key part of the global health security system to prevent, protect against, control and provide a public health response to the international spread of disease.

The original International Sanitary Regulations, which preceded the International Health Regulations, were adopted in 1969 and amended several times: in 1973, in 1981, and in 2005. The third edition (2005) has been amended twice – in 2014 and 2022. The revisions of the regulations illustrate their fluid nature, adapting to the health challenges that the world faces at that time. As medical knowledge changes, I believe it is only right that health regulations change too. 

Regarding the current amendments, the UK Government is eager to ensure that countries' obligations under the IHR remain fit for purpose and reflect the lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic. Measures that the Government wish to see include a stronger global commitment to effective disease surveillance, early reporting of potential health threats, and transparency in sharing information. I understand that the UK continues to formulate positions during ongoing textual negotiations and has engaged other World Health Organisation member states on the matter, including through the Working Group on Amendments to the IHR (2005). 

I would also like to make clear that the UK will not agree to any amendments that cede UK sovereignty. If the UK government accept an IHR amendment that has been negotiated with international partners, then, depending on the context of that amendment, changes to international law may be required. In those instances, the Government would prepare any draft legislation, and Parliament would vote on it in the usual way.

I note that you wish to see the UK withdraw its membership of the WHO because of the proposed regulations. I appreciate your concerns; however, the Government will not support any agreement which compromises the UK's sovereignty. The speculation that somehow the instrument will undermine UK sovereignty and give WHO powers over national public health measures is simply not the case. The UK remains in control of any future domestic decisions about public health matters—such as domestic vaccination—that might be needed in any future pandemic that we may have to manage. I hope this reply has provided sufficient reassurance as to why withdrawal is unnecessary. I would not support the UK's withdrawal from the WHO.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me. 


Yours sincerely,


Sally-Ann Hart MP."