An expert review by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, commissioned by WHO, presents lessons for preventing future pandemics and makes dozens of recommendations for reform, including increased oversight power for the ‘WHO.
The review does not examine the origins of Sars-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. But he criticizes Chinese authorities and the WHO for being too slow to recognize that the virus is spreading among Wuhan residents, and then to warn the world of human-to-human transmission.
“Going forward, a precautionary approach should be used from the start, recognizing that respiratory disease can spread from person to person unless it is established otherwise,” the report said.
The group’s recommendations include a new treaty establishing a Global Council on Health Threats; more power for WHO to investigate and publish information on disease outbreaks without government approval; and new funding for an international pandemic financing mechanism (IPFF) that could spend between $ 5 billion and $ 10 billion per year on preparedness and mobilize between $ 50 billion and $ 100 billion in emergencies.
“The panel recommends a fundamental transformation designed to ensure engagement at the highest level in a new system. . . that citizens can count on for their safety and health, ”said its Co-Chairs, former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
The panel is scathing about the International Health Regulations, the only legally binding instrument on disease outbreaks. “As currently built [they] serve to coerce rather than facilitate rapid action, ”the report says. “When it comes to travel, it’s hard to see that discouraging restrictions by RSI is realistic for pandemics in our highly interconnected time.
“Had the travel restrictions been imposed faster and more widely, it would have been a serious inhibition on the rapid transmission of the virus,” Clark said at a press briefing ahead of the journal’s publication. “We have to realize that we are living in the 21st century and not in medieval times.”
The panel criticizes the WHO for not declaring Covid a public health emergency of international concern by January 30. It was officially labeled a pandemic on March 11.
But the strongest criticism has been directed against wealthy countries in Europe and North America for ‘wasting February 2020’ on inaction – leading to ‘a wasted month where many other countries could have taken action. to contain the spread of Sars-Cov-2 and prevent the global health, social and economic catastrophe which continues to hold sway ”.
When the severity of the crisis was finally recognized in March 2020, “there was a mad rush for PPE, therapeutics and other equipment,” said Clark. “This has been compounded by a lack of global leadership.”
To provide leadership in the future, the panel calls on the world’s heads of government to establish a Global Council on Health Threats and a Pandemic Framework Convention to provide a more solid legal basis for the action. He recommends that these be launched at a world summit, a special session of the United Nations General Assembly which is expected to be convened for this purpose later this year.
The Board would allocate funds from IPFF to institutions developing preparedness and response capacities, including a global platform capable of delivering vaccines, diagnostics, drugs and supplies “quickly and fairly to the whole world.” – moving from a market model to a model aimed at providing global public goods ”. The facility is expected to be prepared to shell out up to $ 100 billion in the short term in the event of another pandemic, according to the panel.
The review also calls for the authority and funding of WHO to be strengthened. This would imply an increase in taxes paid by Member States; “Depoliticize recruitment (especially at higher levels) by respecting merit criteria and relevant skills”; improve the performance of its board of directors – which the panel said failed to play the role of executive body during the pandemic – and appoint a chief executive with a single seven-year term rather than the current terms renewable for five years.
Panel members engage with heads of government to ensure the measures are implemented. “The shelves in storage rooms at the United Nations and national capitals are teeming with reports and reviews of past health crises,” Sirleaf said. “If their warnings had been heeded, we would have avoided the catastrophe we find ourselves in today. This time must be different.