How can we stop the next pandemic?Experts call for major changes to surveillance and alarm systems

The COVID-19 pandemic disease review team said on Wednesday that a new and transparent global system should be established to detect outbreaks, giving the World Health Organization the right to deploy investigators within a short period of time and disclose the results of the investigation.

The expert panel said that the World Health Organization should have declared China’s new coronavirus outbreak as an international emergency as early as January 30, 2020, but because countries have failed to take strong measures to prevent the spread of respiratory pathogens, the next month “lost” “.

In a major report on the handling of the pandemic, the independent expert called on WHO to carry out drastic reforms and revitalize the national preparedness plan to prevent another “toxic cocktail” from occurring.

Helen Clark, the co-chair of the expert panel and former Prime Minister of New Zealand, told reporters in the release of “Reporting COVID-19: Making It the Last Pandemic”: “Having an authorized World Health Organization is essential.”

Co-Chairman Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia, said: “We are calling for a new surveillance and alert system that should be based on transparency and allow WHO to release information immediately.”

Last year, the WHO invited the two co-chairs to review the United Nations agency’s requirements for member states to respond to COVID-19.

Some experts criticized the team for failing to hold WHO and other organizations accountable for their actions during COVID-19, calling it “abandoning responsibility.”

Lawrence Gostin (Lawrence Gostin) of Georgetown University stated that the group “has not convened bad guys like China, which has caused the WHO’s diplomatic tradition of frankness, transparency and accountability to be out of balance.”

“Catastrophic pandemic”

Health ministers will debate these findings at the opening ceremony of the World Health Organization’s annual conference on May 24. Diplomats said that the EU is pushing ahead with reform efforts in UN institutions, which will take time.

According to the report, the SARS-CoV-2 virus appeared in the central Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of 2019 and was allowed to evolve into a “catastrophic” pandemic.

Johnson Sirleaf said: “We can avoid our situation today.” “This is due to countless failures, gaps and delays in preparation and response.”

The expert panel said that Chinese doctors reported cases of abnormal pneumonia in December 2019 and informed the authorities, while the World Health Organization obtained reports from the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control and other agencies.

The report says that the WHO emergency committee should declare an international health emergency at its first meeting on January 22, rather than wait until January 30.

It said that because of the WHO’s International Health Regulations, the committee does not recommend travel restrictions and needs to be modified.

Clark said: “If travel restrictions are implemented faster and more widely, it will once again severely impede the rapid spread of the disease, which is still the case today.”

“Steps should have been taken”

The report stated that governments failed to understand that the emergency declaration was the “biggest alarm” of the WHO. Although it was finally described in this way on March 11, it had no right to declare a pandemic.

It said: “For the panel, it is obvious that February 2020 is a lost month when measures could and should have been taken to contain the epidemic and stop the epidemic.”

The ambulance stopped in Yokohama, Japan on February 6, 2020, carrying coronavirus victims on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship. As countries scramble to learn about the new coronavirus, the outbreak on cruise ships has attracted attention from all over the world. (Carl Court/Getty Images)

It said that instead of preparing hospitals for COVID-19 patients, many countries have adopted “winner-takes-all” measures to compete for protective equipment and medicines.

The group praised the “determined” efforts of WHO’s leadership and staff during the pandemic. It did not specifically accuse China or WHO Director-General Tedros Adnorm Gibriasos. The Trump administration accused them of being “China-centric,” but he denied the accusation.

But it said that the WHO Director-General should be limited to a seven-year term to avoid political pressure.

On February 3, 2020, a worker inspects the quality of protective masks at a production plant on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India. With the spread of the new coronavirus, countries all over the world, including essential personal protective equipment, are vying for fierce competition for key items. equipment. (Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images)

The report said that the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization should convene governments and drug manufacturers to reach agreements on voluntary licensing and technology transfer to promote vaccine production.

When talking about the WTO’s trade-related intellectual property rights, Clark said: “If such an agreement cannot be reached within three months, then it should immediately apply for a TRIPS exemption.”

She pointed out that the Biden administration expressed its willingness to waive this exemption last week. She said: “Obviously, we are very encouraged by the momentum of the TRIPS negotiation exemption.”

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