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Corona pandemic could have been prevented – allegations against WHO

A panel of experts analyzes the start of the corona pandemic over a period of eight months. On behalf of the WHO – and it doesn’t come off well in the final report.

Geneva – In May of last year, when the coronavirus had spread to almost every country on earth, the World Health Organization (WHO) commissioned a report on the start of the corona crisis. A panel of experts should initiate an independent, impartial and comprehensive review of international health measures against the pandemic. The committee, consisting of 13 members, dealt with the development of the pandemic for eight months – and in its report makes accusations to the WHO itself.

The pandemic preparation was “limited” and “fragmented”, according to the committee in the foreword of their report, which was published on May 12, 2021. The corona pandemic exposed the full extent of the lack of precautionary measures for such a health situation, which was responsible for the overburdening of some health systems. The world was simply not prepared for a “fast moving and exponentially spreading” virus.

Preventing a new corona pandemic – committee calls for sustainable investments

In order to close this “dissemination gap”, sustainable investments are necessary, so the conclusion of the committee. There is also a need for “a new approach to measuring the management dimensions of preparedness” and “increased accountability in a system of universal, regular review of the preparedness of countries.” This is the only way to prevent a future pandemic.

The international warning system did not react quickly enough “in the face of a rapidly moving respiratory pathogen”. Above all, the commissioner of the report, the WHO itself, did not sound the alarm early enough. More than three million people have died as a result of the corona pandemic, the number of unreported cases is probably much higher.

In addition, the legally binding health regulations have restricted rather than facilitated quick action. Much time has been lost because of these bureaucratic obstacles. Following the declaration of an international health emergency by the WHO Directorate-General on January 30, 2020, no immediate action followed in most countries – although there was mounting evidence that a contagious new pathogen was spreading around the world. According to the committee, the whole of February 2020 was lost, in which measures would have been necessary to contain the epidemic – which then spread into the pandemic.

Die WHO soll zu spät und nicht eindrücklich genug Alarm geschlagen haben. Zu diesem Schluss kommt ein Bericht eines unabhängigen Gremiums.

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The WHO is said to have sounded the alarm too late and not impressively enough. This is the conclusion of a report by an independent body.

“Toxic cocktail” of procrastination, a lack of preparation and a bad reaction

In addition, uncoordinated approaches, a devaluation of science and the denial of the potential impact of the pandemic in some countries have delayed the measures. Underfunded health systems are also assigned responsibility for the “catastrophic human and socio-economic crisis”.

This “toxic cocktail” of procrastination, lack of preparation and poor reaction to the corona crisis is responsible for the extent of the pandemic, according to the body’s co-president, Nobel Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The experts called the crisis the “Chernobyl of the 21st century”.

But strengths are also highlighted in the committee’s report – one can build on them. Open data and open scientific collaboration were central to alerting and responding. The release of the genome sequence resulted in the fastest generation of diagnostic tests in history. The development of the corona vaccines proceeded “at an unprecedented speed”. And last but not least, the medical staff and other essential workers on the front lines kept society together in the pandemic. (Sebastian Richter)

Rubriclistenbild: © Pavlo Gonchar / imago

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