Global reform efforts to better counter new epidemic threats have been slow and fragmented, leaving the world unprepared for the first release of Covid-19, a report warned on Wednesday.
A year ago, an independent expert panel presented a gruesome report at the World Health Organization’s main annual meeting, alleging that poor coordination and poor decisions had allowed the Kovid epidemic to swell to such catastrophic levels.
At the time, former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf co-chaired an independent panel on epidemic preparedness and response, compiling a long list of measures needed to defeat Covid and ensure the world was better prepared. To deal with future threats.
But in an assessment report a year later, the no longer active panel warned that the world was still “tinkering” and that its inaction was creating the “basis for another epidemic.”
“We have basically the same equipment and the same system that existed in December 2019 to respond to the epidemic threat,” Clark told reporters.
“These tools weren’t good enough.”
It wasn’t all dark. Clark welcomed that “the necessary transformational work has begun worldwide to prevent the next epidemic.”
He pointed out that the new system introduced after the release of Covid has made it possible to supply about 1.5 billion vaccine doses to poor countries and praised efforts to diversify the production of vaccines and antivirals.
The agreement is also expected to lead to more secure and flexible funding for the WHO, as a dedicated epidemic fund is being planned.
Changes in international health regulations are being considered, and a new “legal instrument” – such as a treaty or other form of treaty – is being considered – aimed at streamlining the global approach to epidemic preparedness and response.
‘No time for complacency’
But Clark warned that these changes are moving at all glacier speeds, such as with the WHO budget changes, not expected to be fully implemented for nearly a decade.
“At the current pace, an effective measure is still a few years away, when an epidemic threat could occur at any time,” he said.
“If a new epidemic threatens this year, next year or the next, at least, we’ll be in the same place as December 2019.”
At the same time, the Covid-19 epidemic is still raging.
Clark noted that since the panel presented its report a year ago, more than 2.8 million more coward deaths have been officially recorded, and this is “clearly a low count by many millions of people.”
“Unfortunately, as much as we all want, the epidemic is not over,” Clark complained.
“This is not a time for complacency.”
Joan Liu, a doctor and former panel member who previously led the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) charity, criticized the failure to ensure equitable access to the vaccines and other equipment needed to end the epidemic.
“More than a year and a half after we made the amazing discovery of a vaccine, more than 2.8 billion people on the planet are still waiting for a handful of shots,” he told reporters, condemning the inequality seen in the epidemic response as “a collective moral stain on our history.”
“We can do better.”
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)