Sunday, June 20

Why does the world keep getting hit by wave after wave of Covid when we know how to stop it? | Helen Clark and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

DCovid-19 illness and disease are steadily increasing once again. In the last week of April, more than 93,000 people died – approaching the worst of the second world wave. How can this still be happening? How is it possible that some countries continue to experience wave after wave of infection when we know how to prevent them?

For the past eight months, the Independent Pandemic Preparedness and Response Panel has been rigorously reviewing the evidence of what happened to allow Covid-19 to take firm hold, and why. The panel spoke with hundreds of experts and people on the front lines of the response, and conducted extensive original research and numerous reviews of the literature.

Our report, released today, is firm but fair in its examination of how a series of failures led to the largest health, social and economic disaster in living memory. The time that passed from the notification of a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown origin in late December 2019 to the declaration of an international public health emergency was too long. February 2020 was also a “lost month” to contain the spread of the virus. Quick and consistent actions early on could have made our world look very different today.

Our study of 28 countries from a variety of national responses showed that there were national leaders who devalued science, denied the severity of Covid, delayed responses, and fostered mistrust among citizens. This was in stark contrast to the leaders who, through a consistent government-wide approach, kept citizens safe and contained the virus. They have shown what should have been done everywhere and what can still be done.

Today we are faced with the virus and its variants running through populations struggling with insufficient public health measures and with the irrational, uneven and slow pace of vaccine distribution and supply. The situation in India is of great concern due to the terrible suffering and because it demonstrates the serious threat that Covid-19 still poses.

To end this pandemic, high-income countries with a portfolio of vaccines for adequate coverage of their populations should, along with their own extensions, immediately commit to providing the 92 low- and middle-income countries of the Advanced Market Engagement Gavi’s Covax with at least 1 billion vaccine doses by September 2021, reaching more than 2 billion doses by mid-2022.

The major vaccine producing and manufacturing countries should agree to voluntary licensing and technology transfer in the next three months. The World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) should convene the main players as soon as they can, and if they cannot reach an agreement, a waiver of intellectual property rights under the Agreement. on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property. The (travel) rights should come into force.

At the same time, all national governments must implement proven public health measures to stop the spread of the virus. The rollercoaster of irregular controls and premature lifting of restrictions is not working.

A new pathogen with pandemic potential could emerge at any time, and then there will be no excuse for a “wait and see” approach. There has to be investment in preparation now, not when the next crisis hits.

The panel proposes bold reforms to change the global pandemic prevention and response system to prevent future disease outbreaks from turning into another global crisis.

The panel calls for the establishment of a new world council on threats to health, created by the UN general assembly and led by heads of state and government. You must ensure political commitment to pandemic preparedness and response and hold stakeholders accountable.

More than that, we believe that we must improve national and global accountability and effective implementation through a framework convention against the pandemic, which must be negotiated and agreed upon within six months.

We recommend that WHO establish a new surveillance system based on full transparency. WHO should have explicit authority to publish information on potential pandemics without requiring permission from the governments involved. WHO should also be empowered to dispatch experts to investigate pandemic threats in any country with the least possible notice.

WHO should be strengthened and given more financial independence based on totally unallocated resources and higher tariffs from member states. Among other WHO reforms, the post of Director-General should be limited to a single seven-year term.

More funding is required. A new international funding mechanism for a pandemic would mobilize up to $ 10 billion (£ 7 billion) each year for preparedness, with the ability to disburse between $ 50 and $ 100 billion on short notice in the event of a pandemic declaration. .

The panel, made up of 13 experts with knowledge of global health, politics and economics, and three former heads of government, did not set out to blame or point the finger at any particular country or institution. But now everyone must apply what we’ve learned to ensure the world never suffers in this way again.

The store shelves of the United Nations and national capitals are littered with largely ignored reports and reviews of past global crises. This report cannot be archived. It’s time to take his serious advice to prepare the world to prevent an outbreak from becoming a pandemic.

  • Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia, are Co-Chairs of the Independent Pandemic Preparedness and Response Panel

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