COVID-19 Catastrophe ‘Could Have Been Prevented’, Says Independent Global Panel

Principal Scientific Advisor to GOI Issues Guideline To Stop COVID-19 Transmission
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A Covid-19 pandemic review panel on Wednesday said the catastrophic scale of the COVID-19 pandemic “could have been prevented”. But, it said, a “toxic cocktail” of dithering and poor coordination made it clear that the warning signs went unheeded.

A series of wrong decisions resulted in the death of at least 3.3 million people from COVID-19 so far and also devastated the global economy, Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR) said.

Institutions “have failed to protect people” and leaders who deny science have undermined public confidence in health measures, IPPPR said in its final report.

The early responses to the outbreak which was detected in December 2019 in China’s Wuhan “lacked urgency”, the panel said. It added that February 2020 was a costly “lost month” as countries ignored the alarm.

To combat the current pandemic, it called on the richest nations to donate one billion doses of vaccines to the poorest.

‘Delay, hesitation and denial’

The member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) had requested the report in May 2020.

The panel was co-chaired by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.

“Covid-19: Make It Last Pandemic” report argued that the global alarm system should be overhauled to avoid a similar catastrophe.

“The situation we find ourselves in today could have been prevented,” Sirleaf told reporters.

“It is due to a myriad of failures, gaps and delays in preparedness and response.”

According to the report, the emergence of Covid-19 was marked by a mixture of “some early and rapid action, but also by delay, hesitation, and denial.”

“Poor strategic choices, unwillingness to tackle inequalities and an uncoordinated system created a toxic cocktail which allowed the pandemic to turn into a catastrophic human crisis.”

The report said the threat of a pandemic has been overlooked and countries were not prepared to deal with it.

Panel slams WHO

COVID-19 Catastrophe
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The panel said WHO could have declared the situation Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on January 22, 2020. The PHEIC is its highest level of alarm. Instead, it said, the WHO waited for eight more days before doing so.

Given the relative inaction of countries, “we might still have ended up in the same place”, said Clark.

It wasn’t until March, when the WHO declared it a pandemic, a term that is not officially part of its alert system, following which the countries came into action.

As for the initial outbreak, “there were clearly delays in China — but there were delays everywhere”, she added.

“We believe we wouldn’t be looking at an accelerating pandemic, as we have for the last 15 or 16 months or so. As simple as that”, said Clark.

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