World dangerously unprepared for next pandemic: monitor
A sign at a public park instructs people to keep their distance due to COVID-19 on September 14, 2020 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
AFP/Spencer Platt/Getty Images

World dangerously unprepared for next pandemic: monitor

Nina Larson (Agence France-Presse) - September 15, 2020 - 7:46am

GENEVA, Switzerland — As the world grapples with the devastating coronavirus pandemic, it is doing far too little to prepare for future, possibly even more damaging pandemics, a global health monitor warned Monday.  

In a fresh report, the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB), an independent body created by the World Health Organization and the World Bank, decried that the coronavirus pandemic had revealed how little the world had focused on preparing for such disasters, despite ample warnings that large disease outbreaks were inevitable.

"The COVID-19 pandemic is providing a harsh test of the world’s preparedness," the report said, concluding that little progress had been made on any of the actions it had called for in its initial report last year, before Covid-19 struck.

"Failure to learn the lessons of Covid-19 or to act on them with the necessary resources and commitment will mean that the next pandemic, which is sure to come, will be even more damaging," it warned.

Gro Harlem Brundtland, GPMB co-chair and a former WHO chief, stressed during the virtual launch of the report Monday that the board had warned a year ago that the world was ill prepared for a pandemic.

"Tragically and catastrophically we have seen our worst fears realised," she said.

"The impact of Covid-19 is even worse than we anticipated, but actions that we called for last year, have still not been taken."

The report comes as the global death toll from the novel coronavirus nears the one million-mark, out of the close to 30 million known cases since Covid-19 first emerged in China late last year. 

'Panic and neglect'

Brundtland, also a former Norwegian prime minister, insisted that it was time to break the "cycle of panic and neglect" that had unleashed the "catastrophic" consequences of the Covid-19.

The lobal Preparedness Monitoring Board is again calling for broad global cooperation and significant, long-term financing of pandemic preparedness and prevention.

It urged the UN, the WHO and international financial institutions like the World Bank to convene a summit on the global health emergency, aimed at agreeing on an international framework for emergency preparedness and response.

The framework should include among other things a "mechanism" to ensure "sustainable, predictable financing on the scale that is required," Brundtland said.

"The return on investment in pandemic preparedness is immense," she said, pointing out that "estimates of the cost of prevention and preparedness are measured in billions of dollars, but the cost of a pandemic is measured in trillions."

Current WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus agreed, telling the virtual event that "spending on health and preparedness is not charity. It is an investment in our future."

Not investing in preparedness, he said, is "as if we wait for the plane to crash and then call for more safety inspections; we wait until the town burns down, then decide we need a fire department."

Tedros stressed that Covid-19 "will not be the last pandemic, nor the last global health emergency".

"Every day that we stand by and do nothing is a day that brings us closer to the next global health emergency, whether from a disease outbreak, climate change or a natural or self-inflicted disaster," he said.

"We do not know what the next global health emergency will be, but we know it will come, and we must be prepared."

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: March 5, 2021 - 4:02pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

March 5, 2021 - 4:02pm

The Philippines records 3,045 new coronavirus infections Friday—the highest single day rise since mid-October, pushing the country’s caseload to 587,704.

The department also records 178 new recoveries and 19 more fatalities, bringing the total of survivors to 535,207 and the death toll to 12,423, respectively.

Active cases in the country are at 40,074 or 6.8% of the total cases.

March 5, 2021 - 12:49pm

The World Health Organization has scrapped plans for a team that visited Wuhan, China to probe the origins of the coronavirus pandemic to issue an interim report, The Wall Street Journal reports late Thursday.

Wuhan is the city where the pandemic is believed to have originated in late 2019.

The WHO team returned recently from its visit there saying it had no clear finding on the genesis of the virus, amid tensions between the US and China on what caused the once-in-a century global health crisis. —  AFP

March 5, 2021 - 11:43am

The United States records fewer than 40,000 new cases of Covid-19 in one day for the first time in five months on Thursday, according to the Johns Hopkins University pandemic tracker.

This number peaked at nearly 300,000 new cases on January 8 in the country hardest hit by the pandemic, with more than half a million fatalities.

But now it is back down to the levels of before Thanksgiving and Christmas, when holiday travel and gatherings in defiance of safety warnings were blamed for spreading the virus further in the US. —  AFP

March 4, 2021 - 9:38am

Brazil registers a record of Covid-19 deaths for the second straight day Wednesday, with 1,910 lives lost to the pandemic.

With a surge in cases currently pushing health systems to the limit in many areas, Brazil has recorded a total of 259,271 deaths, according to the health ministry — the second-highest death toll worldwide, after the United States.

"For the first time since the pandemic began, we are seeing a deterioration across the entire country," public health institute Fiocruz said before the latest figures were published.

"The situation is alarming." —  AFP

March 3, 2021 - 8:43am

Brazil on Tuesday registers a record 1,641 deaths in 24 hours from Covid-19, health authorities announced, as the country endures a further worsening of the pandemic.

The country of 212 million inhabitants has recorded a total of 257,361 Covid-19 deaths, according to the health ministry, and has the second-highest national death toll after the United States.

Brazil continues to have a piecemeal response, with individual cities and states setting their own policies in the face of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro's repeated attacks on restrictive measures and face masks. —  AFP

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