US slashes pandemic alert ahead of coronavirus outbreak

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  • The Trump administration has ended funding for an early warning program that has helped detect diseases that could explode into pandemics, the Los Angeles Times reported.
  • Last year, the PREDICT project, a program of the United States Agency for International Development, lost its $ 200 million in funding just months before the emergence of the new coronavirus in Wuhan, China.
  • PREDICT has worked with laboratories around the world, including the Wuhan facility in China that identified the first coronavirus.
  • One of their missions was to discover and analyze zootonic diseases, which pass from human to animal. One of these diseases is the new coronavirus.
  • USAID gave the program an emergency infusion of $ 2.26 million, the L.A. Times reported, but one person involved in the project said it was not enough.
  • Visit the Business Insider home page for more stories.

Just months before the start of the new coronavirus epidemic, the Trump administration cut funding for a program that helped train scientists to detect and monitor more than 1,200 viruses that could explode in pandemics, according to a Los Angeles Times report.

The program, known as PREDICT, has partnered with 60 foreign labs, including the lab in the Chinese city of Wuhan which first identified the new coronavirus, according to the L.A. Times. But funding for the $ 200 million program ran out in September 2019, and dozens of scientists and analysts were laid off.

The fate of the project has worried many public health experts, according to an October 2019 report in the New York Times.

The project was founded in 2009 by the United States Agency for International Development as part of its Emerging Pandemic Threats (EPT) program. This program included four projects, including PREDICT.

USAID did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.

Since the new coronavirus epidemic, PREDICT has since received $ 2.26 million in emergency funding from USAID, the L.A. Times reported. But at least one key player thinks that is not enough.

“Look at the name: our efforts were to plan for this before it happened,” Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, a leading global environmental health organization, told The Times. in the PREDICT project. “This is the part of the program that was exciting – and it is the part that worries me. “

“It is absolutely essential not to give up on the idea of ​​a large-scale predictive program that tries to catch pandemics before they happen,” he said. “Deleting a program that could somehow reduce the risk of things like COVID-19 happening again is, by any measure, shortsighted”

According to the EcoHealth Alliance website, a key part of the project’s work was to collect and analyze wild animal samples from around the world for the purpose of detecting zoonotic diseases, which can be transmitted from animals to humans.

The new coronavirus, officially classified SARS-CoV-2, is one of these diseases.

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