The COVID-19 pandemic was a preventable disaster that was exacerbated by incompetence and unpreparedness according to an exhaustive report on the matter that was published on Wednesday.
The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response found “weak links at every point in the chain” and determined that “global political leadership was absent” at the onset of the outbreak of SARS-COV-2.
“COVID-19 is the 21st century’s Chernobyl moment—not because a disease outbreak is like a nuclear accident, but because it has shown so clearly the gravity of the threat to our health and well-being. It has caused a crisis so deep and wide that presidents, prime ministers and heads of international and regional bodies must now urgently accept their responsibility to transform the way in which the world prepares for and responds to global health threats. If not now, then when?” the study posits.
IPPPS also blasted the World Health Organization – by whom it was commissioned – for WHO’s sloppy guidance and inconsistent messaging:
Many concluded that the World Health Organization needed to strengthen its role as the leading and coordinating organization in the field of health, focus on its normative work, and receive more secure funding. Reviews also suggested improvements in the implementation of the IHR (2005). Some of the reviews resulted in specific action, including the establishment of the new WHO Health Emergencies Programme in 2016. Yet, despite the consistent messages that significant change was needed to ensure global protection against pandemic threats, the majority of recommendations were never implemented. At best, there has been piecemeal implementation. A coalition of interests with sufficient power and momentum to achieve a package of essential reforms has never been assembled. As a result, pandemic and other health threats have not been elevated to the same level of concern as threats of war, terrorism, nuclear disaster or global economic instability. When steps have been explicitly recommended, they have been met with indifference by Member States, resulting in weakened implementation that has severely blunted the original intentions. It is clear to the Panel that pandemics pose potential existential threats to humanity and must be elevated to the highest level.
February of 2020 in particular was “a month of lost opportunity to avert a pandemic, as so many countries chose to wait and see” what would happen, said former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who spearheaded the panel along with ex-Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, as reported by The Guardian.
“For some, it wasn’t until hospital ICU beds began to fill that more action was taken,” she said. “And by then it was too late to avert the pandemic impact. What followed then was a winner takes all scramble for PPE and therapeutics. Globally, health workers were tested to their limits and the rates of infection, illness and death soared and continue to soar.”
Sirleaf concluded that “the situation we find ourselves in today could have been prevented. An outbreak of a new pathogen, SARS-COV-2 became a catastrophic pandemic that has now killed more than 3.25 million people, and continues to threaten lives and livelihoods all over the world. It is due to a myriad of failures, gaps and delays in preparedness and response. This was partly due to failure to learn from the past.”
Action must be taken to prevent the next catastrophe, she continued, adding that the world should have paid closer attention to warnings that began emerging from China in late 2019.
“There are many reviews of previous health crises that include sensible recommendations. Yet, they sit gathering dust in UN basements and on government shelves … Our report shows that most countries of the world were simply not prepared for a pandemic,” Sirleaf said.
“When we look back to that period in late December, 2019, clinicians in Wuhan acted quickly when they recognized individuals in a cluster of pneumonia cases that were not normal,” Sirleaf pointed out.
And although those findings were “picked up quickly by neighboring areas, countries, the media – on an online disease reporting site – and by the WHO,” she said, “the systems that were meant to validate and respond to this alert were too slow. The alert system does not operate with sufficient speed when faced with a fast-moving respiratory pathogen.”
Nowhere on the planet was the aforementioned failure of leadership more cataclysmic than in the United States, which should have been one of the best-prepped nations to handle a pandemic. But despite being handed a functioning pandemic response team loaded with procedures and protocols, then-President Donald Trump did everything within his power to downplay the severity of the crisis.
First, he disbanded the pandemic response team that his predecessor, Barack Obama, left in place. Trump made matters worse by denying the virus was real, calling it a hoax, peddling snake oil cures, and encouraging the population to ignore the pleas of health experts.
The 45th president’s sadistic inaction, confusing disinformation, and nonstop lies directly resulted in the deaths of nearly 600,000 Americans – and those are only what have been officially tallied. Recent estimates peg the actual casualty total at closer to one million.
What's Your Reaction?
Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.