Catastrophe could have been prevented

The threat of a Covid-19 pandemic had been overlooked and countries were woefully unprepared to deal with one, a report found.

14 May 2021 | Economics

Investing billions in preparedness now will save trillions in the future. - Helen Clark, Join chair: IPPPR

Robin Millard - The catastrophic scale of the Covid-19 pandemic could have been prevented, an independent global panel concluded Wednesday, but a "toxic cocktail" of dithering and poor coordination meant the warning signs went unheeded.

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR) said a series of bad decisions meant Covid-19 went on to kill at least 3.3 million people so far and devastate the global economy.

Institutions "failed to protect people" and science-denying leaders eroded public trust in health interventions, the IPPPR said in its long-awaited final report.

Early responses to the outbreak detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019 "lacked urgency", with February 2020 a costly "lost month" as countries failed to heed the alarm, said the panel.

The report was requested by World Health Organisation (WHO) member states last May.

The panel was jointly chaired by former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark and former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a 2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The report, "Covid-19: Make it the Last Pandemic", argued that the global alarm system needed overhauling to prevent 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."

The report said the emergence of Covid-19 was characterised 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 threat of a pandemic had been overlooked and countries were woefully unprepared to deal with one, the report found.

The panel did not spare the WHO, saying it could have declared the situation a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) - its highest level of alarm - on January 22, 2020.

Instead, it waited eight more days before doing so.

Nevertheless, given countries' relative inaction, "we might still have ended up in the same place", said Clark.

It was only in March after the WHO described it as a pandemic - a term that is not officially part of its alert system - that countries were jolted into action.


As for the initial outbreak, "there were clearly delays in China - but there were delays everywhere", she added.

Without the lag between the first identification in Wuhan and the PHEIC declaration - and then the "lost month" of February 2020 - "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.

The panel made several recommendations on how to address the current pandemic.

Rich, well-vaccinated countries should provide the 92 poorest territories in the Covax scheme with at least one billion vaccine doses by September 1, and more than two billion by mid-2022, it said.

The G7 industrialised nations should pay 60% of the US$19 billion required to fund vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics via the WHO's Access to Covid Tools Accelerator programme in 2021, it added.

Fellow G20 nations and others should provide the rest.

The WHO and the World Trade Organisation should also get major vaccine-producing countries and manufacturers to agree voluntary licensing and technology transfers for Covid-19 vaccines, the panel said.

"If actions do not occur within three months, a waiver of ... intellectual property rights should come into force immediately."


To tackle future outbreaks and pandemics, the panel called for a Global Health Threats Council made up of world leaders, plus a pandemic convention.

The G20 should also create an International Pandemic Financing Facility, able to spend US$5-10 billion a year on preparedness, with US$50 to US$100 billion ready to roll in the event of a crisis.

"Ultimately, investing billions in preparedness now will save trillions in the future, as the current pandemic has so clearly illustrated," Clark told reporters.

The panel also proposed an overhaul of the WHO to give it greater control over its funding and more authority for its leadership.

Its alert system needed to be faster and it should have the authority to send expert missions to countries immediately without waiting for their green light, it added.

The panel believe their recommendations would have stopped Covid-19 from becoming a pandemic, had they been in place before the outbreak. – Nampa/AFP

Similar News


IMF approves US$772 mln payment to Angola

2 days ago - 11 June 2021 | Economics

The International Monetary Fund's executive board has approved a disbursement to Angola of about US$772 million after completing a fifth review of the African oil...

Minimum wage discussions continue at Rundu

2 days ago - 11 June 2021 | Economics

The newly established Wage Commission is in Rundu to investigate the possibility of introducing a national minimum wage in the country.At a meeting held at...

South Africa posts modest growth in Q1

3 days ago - 10 June 2021 | Economics

South Africa's economy maintained a steady growth trajectory in the first quarter of this year ticking up by more than one percent compared to the...

IMF approves US$650 mln in aid for Senegal

4 days ago - 09 June 2021 | Economics

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved US$650 million in aid to Senegal to support the West African country's Covid-19 recovery, it said in a...

US restricts visas over Cameroon conflict

4 days ago - 09 June 2021 | Economics

The United States on Monday announced visa restrictions on individuals accused of fuelling violence in western Cameroon, which has seen vicious fighting for four years...

OPEC sees oil stocks falling further

4 days ago - 09 June 2021 | Economics

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies expect oil inventories to fall further in the coming months, OPEC's secretary general said...

Import substitution the way to go

5 days ago - 08 June 2021 | Economics

PHILLEPUS UUSIKUTo ensure that the domestic economy revives on a long-term basis, import substitution, export promotion and investments should all be considered as feasible policy...

Cryptocurrencies show inflows after record outflows

5 days ago - 08 June 2021 | Economics

GERTRUDE CHAVEZ-DREYFUSSCryptocurrencies posted inflows last week after hitting record outflows the previous two, as investors took advantage of price declines in the market, data from...

World Bank pauses Mali payments after coup

5 days ago - 08 June 2021 | Economics

The World Bank said it had temporarily paused payments to operations in Mali after the military seized power from the transitional president and prime minister.The...

Oranjemund tables N$193 million budget

5 days ago - 08 June 2021 | Economics

The Oranjemund Town Council recently tabled a provisional budget of nearly N$ 193 million for the 2021/22 financial year.In a media statement on Friday, the...

Latest News

Minimum wage discussions continue at...

2 days ago - 11 June 2021 | Economics

The newly established Wage Commission is in Rundu to investigate the possibility of introducing a national minimum wage in the country.At a meeting held at...

Career partnerships – mentor, coach,...

2 days ago - 11 June 2021 | Columns

Chaze NalisaA few weeks ago, I shared an article titled ‘Network is a Currency’. In today’s piece, I would like to draw attention to network...

Aiming to make a positive...

2 days ago - 11 June 2021 | People

Enzo AmueleBeatus Amadhila was recently appointed Powercom’s new chief executive officer, with effect from the start of June.“While I had to hit the ground running,...

2021’s breakout star

2 days ago - 11 June 2021 | Art and Entertainment

WINDHOEKMICHAEL KAYUNDEWith a track record that could impress anyone willing to pay attention, elia da vincii continues to develop himself on all levels. The song...

SA's rooibos tea on EU...

2 days ago - 11 June 2021 | Business

Like champagne, roquefort and Kalamata olives, South Africa's world-famous rooibos tea has been added to a European Union (EU) list of protected agricultural products and...

Capricorn Group gives women’s cricket...

2 days ago - 11 June 2021 | Sports

Staff Reporter Capricorn Group and its subsidiary Capricorn Asset Management, and Capricorn Private Wealth, sent off the Namibian national women’s cricket team – The Eagles...

Group sales manager shares his...

2 days ago - 11 June 2021 | People

Staff Reporter Ian Grassow is a proud Namibian, born in Walvis Bay, and is currently in the Group Sales division of Paratus Namibia.Ian has been...

When challenges become accomplishments

2 days ago - 11 June 2021 | People

Wetumwene Shikage Simone Mouton is a senior consultant at Alexander Forbes (AF) Financial Services She was born in a small village in the...

EDITORIAL: Mitigate Covid with productive...

2 days ago - 11 June 2021 | Opinion

We are reliably informed that plans are afoot to tighten Covid-19 regulations in the coming days, as the country undergoes its most deadly spell of...

Load More