Livemint wants to start sending you push notifications. Click allow to subscribe
Subscribe
My Reads e-paper Newsletters IFSC Code Finder New
Subscribe
OPEN APP
Home >News >India >WHO declared Covid-19 an emergency very late, catastrophe could have been prevented: Global expert panel

WHO declared Covid-19 an emergency very late, catastrophe could have been prevented: Global expert panel

Premium
The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR) said a series of bad decisions meant Covid-19 went on to kill at least 3.3 million people so far

  • Independent panel issues report on handling of Covid-19 pandemic, calls for new global system to investigate disease outbreaks
  • The panels says WHO should have declared emergency sooner

A Covid-19 pandemic review panel on Wednesday said that Covid-19 pandemic could have been prevented, but a "toxic cocktail" of dithering and poor coordination meant the warning signs went unheeded.

A Covid-19 pandemic review panel on Wednesday said that Covid-19 pandemic could have been prevented, but a "toxic cocktail" of dithering and poor coordination meant the warning signs went unheeded.

It further suggested that a new transparent global system should be set up for probing disease outbreaks.

The suggestion comes after the panel blamed the World Health Organisation (WHO) for announcing the Covid-19 pandemic global emergency a month late. The independent global panel said, ideally, WHO should have declared the new coronavirus outbreak in China an international emergency earlier than January 30, 2020. But the delay in the announcement was a "lost month" as countries failed to heed the alarm, said the panel.

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR) said a series of bad decisions meant Covid-19 went on to kill at least 3.3 million people so far and devastate the global economy.

A report, called the "Covid-19: Make it the Last Pandemic", argued that the global alarm system needed overhauling to prevent a similar catastrophe.

The report said the emergence of Covid-19 was characterised by a mixture of "some early and rapid action, but also by delay, hesitation, and denial".

Chinese doctors reported cases of unusual pneumonia in December 2019 and informed authorities, while WHO picked up reports from the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control and others, the panel said.

But WHO's Emergency Committee should have declared an international health emergency at its first meeting on January, 22 instead of waiting until 30 January, the report said.

The panel was jointly chaired by former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark and former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a 2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

"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," Clark said.

"We are calling for a new surveillance and alert system that is based on transparency and allows WHO to publish information immediately," Sirleaf said.

However, the panel also praised the "unstinting" efforts of WHO leadership and staff during the pandemic. It did not lay specific blame on China or on WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, whom the Trump administration accused of being "China-centric", a charge he denied.

But it said that a WHO director-general should be limited to a single seven-year term to avoid political pressure.

Further, the panel made several recommendations on how to address the current pandemic.

Rich countries should provide the 92 poorest territories in the Covax scheme with at least one billion vaccine doses by September 1, and more than two billion by mid-2022, it said.

The G7 industrialised nations should pay 60% of the $19 billion required to fund vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics via the WHO's Access to Covid Tools Accelerator programme in 2021, it added. Fellow G20 nations and others should provide the rest.

The WHO and the World Trade Organisation should also get major vaccine-producing countries and manufacturers to agree on voluntary licensing and technology transfers for Covid-19 vaccines, the panel said.

"If actions do not occur within three months, a waiver of... intellectual property rights should come into force immediately."

The G20 should also create an International Pandemic Financing Facility, able to spend $5-10 billion a year on preparedness, with $50 to $100 billion ready to roll in the event of a crisis.

The panel also proposed an overhaul of the WHO to give it greater control over its funding and more authority for its leadership.

Its alert system needed to be faster and it should have the authority to send expert missions to countries immediately without waiting for their green light, it added.

The panel believes their recommendations would have stopped Covid-19 from becoming a pandemic, had they been in place before the outbreak.

(With agencies input)

Never miss a story! Stay connected and informed with Mint. Download our App Now!!