The COVID-19 pandemic which has claimed numerous lives across the world and disrupted global economies could have been prevented.
The foregoing is the conclusion of an independent report commissioned by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The report, submitted by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, was released on Wednesday, May 12. Specifically, it disclosed that COVID-19 was a preventable disaster that didn’t have to cost millions of lives.
Equally important, the report painted a damning picture of the loopholes that resulted in the current situation.
“The panel has found weak links at every point in the chain of preparedness and response. Preparation was inconsistent and underfunded. The alert system was too slow and too meek. The World Health Organization was under-powered. The response has exacerbated inequalities. Global political leadership was absent.”
Furthermore, former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, one of the report’s authors, lamented the failure to act fast.
She said: “The situation we find ourselves in today could have been prevented. An outbreak of a new pathogen, Sars CoV-2 became a catastrophic pandemic that has now killed more than 3.25 million people, and continues to threaten lives and livelihoods all over the world. It is due to a myriad of failures, gaps and delays in preparedness and response. This was partly due to failure to learn from the past.”
Meanwhile, the panel’s report included quite a few key findings.
It stressed that years of warnings of an inevitable pandemic threat were not acted on; adding that there was inadequate funding and stress testing of preparedness. This was in spite of the increasing rate at which zoonotic diseases are emerging. Also, it disclosed that many countries took a ‘wait and see’ approach; rather than enacting an aggressive containment strategy that could have forestalled the global pandemic.
Further, the report noted that WHO staff worked extremely hard to provide advice, guidance and support to countries. However, Member States had underpowered the agency to do the job it had to do.
It also revealed that status or country wealth was not a predictor of success with managing the COVID-19 pandemic; as a number of low and middle-income countries successfully implemented public health measures which kept illness and death to a minimum. A number of high-income countries did not.
Most importantly, it hailed the efforts of medical staff and other health care workers across the globe. Also, it called for urgent action to prevent such a preventable disaster from recurring.
“The world cannot afford to focus only on Covid-19. It must learn from this crisis, and plan for the next one. Otherwise, precious time and momentum will be lost. That is why our recommendations focus on the future.
“Covid-19 has been a terrible wake-up call. So now the world needs to wake up, and commit to clear targets, additional resources, new measures and strong leadership to prepare for the future. We have been warned,” the report concluded.
The report was chaired by Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand and Sirleaf, former president of Liberia.