Widespread, global failures at multiple levels in the Covid-19 response led to millions of preventable deaths, said Lancet COVID-19 Commission report.
The commission said that lack of cooperation among governments for the financing and distribution of key health commodities—including vaccines, personal protective equipment, and resources for vaccine development and production in low-income countries—has come at dire costs.
The commission’s report has come out after collating evidence in two years of work from 28 of the world’s leading experts in public policy, international governance, epidemiology, vaccinology, economics, international finance, sustainability, and mental health, and consultations with over 100 other contributors to 11 global task forces.
“The staggering human toll of the first two years of the covid-19 pandemic is a profound tragedy and a massive societal failure at multiple levels,” said Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Chair of the Commission, University Professor at Columbia University (USA), and President of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
The failures, the report said, reversed progress made towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in many countries. SDGs are a collection of 17 interlinked global which are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. The SDGs were set up in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly and are intended to be achieved by 2030.
“We must face hard truths—too many governments have failed to adhere to basic norms of institutional rationality and transparency; too many people have protested basic public health precautions, often influenced by misinformation; and too many nations have failed to promote global collaboration to control the pandemic,” said Sachs.
The Lancet commission took on the World Health Organization (WHO) on cautioning the world about the highly infectious disease by declaring it as a global public health emergency. The report said that costly delays by WHO to declare a “public health emergency of international concern” and to recognise the airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 coincided with national governments’ failure to cooperate and coordinate on travel protocols, testing strategies, commodity supply chains, data reporting systems, and other vital international policies to suppress the pandemic.
“Over a year and a half since the first COVID-19 vaccine was administered, global vaccine equity has not been achieved. In high-income countries, three in four people have been fully vaccinated, but in low-income countries, only one in seven,” said Commission co-author, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, former President of the UN General Assembly and former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defence, Ecuador.
The commission has said that the WHO should increase the investment towards healthcare for preventing future pandemics. The Commission estimated that to achieve this around $60 billion would be required yearly, equivalent to 0.1 per cent of the gross domestic product of high-income countries.
The Lancet Commission also said that there is a need for an independent, transparent investigation into the origins of SARS-CoV-2, alongside robust regulations, to help prevent future pandemics that may result from both natural and research-related activities, and to strengthen public trust in science and public authorities.
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