The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a report analyzing the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the delay in the early world-wide awareness and handling of the disease. The report was essentially a damning admission of failures that have led to millions of deaths around the globe.
The COVID-19 pandemic was a “preventable disaster” that revealed failures “at every point” of the preparedness process, according to the WHO-commissioned report published Wednesday. However, while the report acknowledged the mistakes in how the response was handled, it was less specific in identifying the entities causing these deficiencies.
The report, by a group called the “Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response,” which was organized by the WHO, said the “resources and know-how to control the coronavirus existed all along but world leaders failed to use them properly.”
These failures to acknowledge the pandemic “served to constrain rather than facilitate rapid action,” the report says. The most specific indictment was of China and WHO. They were criticized for waiting too long to say the virus was spreading between humans in the city of Wuhan and to warn the world about human-to-human transmission, the Financial Times reported.
The report also says that February 2020 was a “lost month” when governments should have taken action to prevent the epidemic from developing into a pandemic. This was particularly true in the United States, where the Centers for Disease control (CDC) totally fumbled the development and implementation of a screening test for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The report argued for “a fundamental transformation” to the world health system. Among its recommendations:
- create a new “Global Health Threats Council”
- provide the WHO with more power to investigate threats
- develop an “International Pandemic Financing Facility” with an annual budget up to $10 billion and $100 billion in reserve.
Along with the problems seen with the CDC in the United States, which I have previously discussed, it truly is disturbing that public health authorities throughout the world have not managed this pandemic well. These organizations all seem to share common problems, such as lack of organization, in-fighting between groups in the organization, and the inability to communicate simply and directly on important measures to control the pandemic. For example, the WHO and CDC both had incredibly confusing and conflicting communications on the need for masks.
The WHO in particular is very important in this area given the role that international travel plays in spreading disease. There are lovely maps showing how human travel between continents was responsible for the migration of variants of SARS-CoV-2 to different parts of the world.
Despite the importance of the WHO, without significant organizational change and acceptance of responsibility for failures, I doubt any country will cede power or send more money to the WHO.