An independent review panel set up by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has found that the COVID-19 pandemic was preventable.
It said the WHO’s response and that of global governments was a “toxic cocktail”.
“The situation we find ourselves in today could have been prevented,” co-chair Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a former president of Liberia, told reporters.
“It is due to a myriad of failures, gaps and delays in preparedness and response.”
The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response chastised the WHO for not declaring the pandemic sooner. It argued that the WHO’s Emergency Committee should have declared the outbreak in China an international emergency a week earlier than it did.
Additionally, it said that the WHO was hampered by its own protocol that travel restrictions should be a last resort.
Panel co-chair and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said it was “critical to have an empowered WHO”.
“If travel restrictions had been imposed more quickly, more widely, again that would have been a serious inhibition on the rapid transmission of the disease and that remains the same today,” she added.
And then when countries should have been preparing their healthcare systems for an influx of Covid patients, they descended into “winner takes all” scramble for protective equipment and medicines, the report said.
The panel surmised that without urgent change, the world was vulnerable to another major disease outbreak.
It suggested these key reforms to prevent another major disease outbreak. A new global threats council should be created with the power to hold countries accountable.
There should be a disease surveillance system to publish information without the approval of countries concerned.
Vaccines must be classed as public goods and there should be a pandemic financing facility.
There was an immediate request for the wealthy G7 nations to commit US$1.9bn to the WHO’s Covax programme providing vaccine support to low income countries.
Globally, 3.3 million people have died from the coronavirus virus.