By Cecilia Ologuanagba
The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR), appointed by World Health Organisation (WHO), on Wednesday urged bold action to end the COVID-19 pandemic.
WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, in his opening remarks at the launch of the IPPPR Report at the world health body’s headquarters in Geneva welcomed the findings of the panel.
Ghebreyesus said: “ we welcome today’s presentation of the panel’s findings and recommendations, and we look forward to the publication of the full report at the World Health Assembly.
“The Independent Panel’s report is one of a suite of reports reviewing different aspects of the pandemic, and WHO’s work, including the Review Committee on the Functioning of the International Health Regulations.
“The Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee for the WHO Health Emergencies Programme; The external Evaluation of the Transformation Agenda and the Intergovernmental working group on Sustainable Financing.
“We look forward to reviewing all of these reports, and to discussing them with our Member States in the coming weeks.’’
The director general, however, thanked former Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, co-chair of IPPPR and the Right Honourable Helen Clark for their leadership, as well as the panel members and Secretariat.
“We look forward to working with our Member States to discuss the recommendations of this Panel and the other committees to build a stronger WHO and a healthier, safer, fairer future for all of us,’’ he said.
Sirleaf, in her remarks, said: “our message is simple and clear: the current system failed to protect us from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If we do not act to change it now, it will not protect us from the next pandemic threat, which could happen at any time.”
Similarly in her remarks, co-chair of IPPPR, Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand said: “the tools are available to put an end to the severe illnesses, deaths, and socio-economic damage caused by COVID-19.
“ We have no choice but to act to stop such a catastrophe happening again,’’ she said.
The panel – whose report contains “the authoritative chronology of what happened” – also insisted that February 2020 was “a lost month”.
This was because “many more countries” could have done more to contain the spread of the new coronavirus after the WHO declared a public health emergency of international concern on January 30, 2020 after the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China.
According to Sirleaf, the shelves of storage rooms in the UN and national capitals are full of reports and reviews of previous health crises.
“Had their warnings been heeded, we would have avoided the catastrophe we are in today. This time must be different.’’
Quicker action “would have helped to prevent the global health, social, and economic catastrophe that continues its grip”, the panel noted.
The panel added that “the system as it stands now is clearly unfit to prevent another novel and highly infectious pathogen, which could emerge at any time, from developing into a pandemic.’’
Among its recommendations, the panel urged Heads of State to take the lead in supporting proven public health measures to curb the pandemic and implement reforms “to prevent a future outbreak” from spreading globally.
The panel also advised high-income countries with adequate vaccine supply to commit to provide “at least one billion” doses to the 92 low and middle-income countries in the UN-led equitable vaccine scheme, COVAX, by September. (NAN)