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: September 18, 2020 - 7:28pm

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

September 18, 2020 - 7:28pm

Israel imposes a second nationwide lockdown to tackle one of the world's highest coronavirus infection rates, hours before the Jewish holiday season begins.

The three-week shutdown from 2:00 pm (1100 GMT) started just hours before Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, and will extend through other key religious holidays, including Yom Kippur and Sukkot. — AFP

September 18, 2020 - 6:41pm

Britain's government warns it could re-impose a national lockdown across England to counter the coronavirus pandemic, noting rates of hospitalisation are doubling every eight days.

"We want to avoid a national lockdown, but we're prepared to do it if we need to," Health Secretary Matt Hancock tells BBC television.

"We're prepared to do what it takes both to protect lives and to protect livelihoods," he says, warning of more local measures to come after restrictions were placed on swathes of northeast England from Friday. — AFP

September 18, 2020 - 4:17pm

The Department of Health registers 3,257 additional infections, bringing the national caseload to 279,526.

There are 47 new deaths and 733 new recoveries.


September 18, 2020 - 7:33am

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 941,473 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Thursday.

At least 29,914,290 cases of coronavirus have been registered. Of these, at least 20,131,400 are now considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections. — AFP

September 17, 2020 - 8:57pm

India's total coronavirus cases passed five million on Wednesday, health ministry data showed, as the pandemic extends its grip on the vast country at an ever-faster rate.

With its latest one million cases recorded in just 11 days, a world record, India now has 5.02 million infections. Only the United States has more, with 6.59 million.

India has for some time been recording the world's biggest daily jumps in cases, and on Wednesday, the rise was just over 90,000 with a record 1,290 deaths.

While India took 167 days to reach one million cases, the next million came in just 21 days, faster than the US and Brazil, according to the Times of India. 

Just 29 days later, India became only the third country after the US and Brazil to post four million infections. India passed Brazil earlier this month. — AFP

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