An independent panel released a report Wednesday saying the coronavirus pandemic was a “preventable disaster,” exacerbated by a slow and weak World Health Organization (WHO) and lack of global political leadership.
The panel, formed to examine the cause of and response to the pandemic, said that while there had been years of warnings about the threat of pandemics, initial signs of the threat from clinicians in Wuhan, China were not acted on. It said coordinated, global leadership was absent, and global tensions undermined efforts by international, multilateral institutions to take cooperative action.
The panel also concluded that the international threat warning could have been declared at least a week earlier than it was on January 30, 2020.
Close to 160 million cases have been recorded globally, along with more than 3.3 million deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.
The independent panel faulted countries worldwide for their “wait and see” approach, rather than enacting aggressive containment strategies that might have slowed or prevented the crisis. The group also criticized restrictive international health laws that hindered the WHO’s response.
The independent panel was formed last year by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the request of the organization’s membership. Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark led the panel.
In its final report, the panel made a series of recommendations, such as creating a global health threats council through the United Nations. It would include heads of state, giving the WHO more power and financial independence and have it work with the World Trade Organization with vaccine-producing countries and manufacturers to quickly reach deals to boost the world’s global supply of coronavirus shots.
The panel also suggested that Tedros, WHO’s current director-general, should be limited to a single seven-year term. As it stands, the WHO chief is elected to a five-year term that can be renewed once.
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