May 13 (BBC) – The Covid-19 pandemic was preventable, an independent review panel has said.
The panel, set up by the World Health Organization, said the combined response of the WHO and global governments was a “toxic cocktail”.
The WHO should have declared a global emergency earlier than it did, its report said, adding that without urgent change the world was vulnerable to another major disease outbreak.
More than 3.3 million people around the world have now died of Covid.
What did the report say?
Covid-19: Make it the Last Pandemic, was compiled by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response.
Its aim was to find answers as to how the virus had killed more than 3.3 million people and infected more than 159 million.
“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.”
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The panel argued that the WHO’s Emergency Committee should have declared the outbreak in China an international emergency a week earlier than it did.
It should have done so at its first meeting on 22 January last year, the report said, instead of waiting until 30 January.
The month following the WHO’s declaration was “lost” as countries failed to take appropriate measures to halt the spread of the virus.
The WHO was then hindered by its own regulations that travel restrictions should be a last resort, the panel said, adding that Europe and the US wasted the entire month of February and acted only when their hospitals began to fill up.
When countries should have been preparing their healthcare systems for an influx of Covid patients, much of the world descended into a “winner takes all” scramble for protective equipment and medicines, the report said.
To prevent another catastrophic pandemic, the report suggests key reforms:
- 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 $1.9bn (£1.3bn) to the WHO’s Covax programme providing vaccine support to low income countries
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.