The World Trade Organization has postponed its in-person ministerial conference in Geneva over concerns regarding "an outbreak of a particularly transmissible strain of the COVID-19 virus", reported news agency ANI.
The MC12 conference at WTO headquarters in Geneva was set to take up key issues like a long-awaited agreement on subsidies for fisheries, seen as a major way to prevent overfishing in the world's seas, and an effort to waive patent and other intellectual property protection linked to COVID-19 vaccines.
Ambassadors from the WTO's 164 member states agreed to delay the four-day conference after new Swiss travel restrictions meant all participants wouldn't be able to attend in person, and a virtual meeting was not deemed to be an option, a Geneva-based trade official told Associated Press on Friday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss the matter publicly.
The 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) was set to take place from 30 November to 3 December 2021 in Geneva, Switzerland, the official website of the World Trade Organisation informed.
This Omicron variant was first reported to the WHO from South Africa on Friday.
"@wto #MC12 has been postponed. The full membership is behind the decision of the General Council Chair @CastilloDacio and DG @NOIweala. Health, fairness and inclusiveness informed the call. It is the right decision. Work will and must continue," WTO deputy DG Anabel Gonzalez said in a tweet.
During the meeting, ministers from across the world were set to review the functioning of the multilateral trading system, to deliver prepared statements and to take action on the future work of the WTO, the official website said.
Meanwhile, as precautionary measures to contact the spread of the new variant, India on Friday added several countries to the list from where travellers would need to follow additional measures on arrival in India, including post-arrival testing for infection.
(With inputs from ANI and Associated Press)