7 Things to Know About a Major New COVID Report

It was commissioned by the WHO
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 12, 2021 1:01 PM CDT

(Newser) – It's definitely not a reassuring conclusion: An independent panel commissioned by the World Health Organization to review the pandemic and glean learnings from it has determined the COVID pandemic was a preventable disaster. The panel was chaired by former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (who told reporters "the situation we find ourselves in today could have been prevented") and former New Zealand PM Helen Clark. Since mid-September, the panel has conducted and reviewed research and spoken with experts, first responders, and the public. Standout findings from the report, titled "COVID-19: Make It the Last Pandemic," per the AP, BBC, and Guardian:

  1. Our leaders failed us. "Global political leadership was absent."
  2. There were issues with the WHO's Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). That's the "loudest alarm" the WHO can sound, and it did so on Jan. 30; the report makes the case it could have been declared Jan. 22, and that it spurred far, far less action than it should have.
  3. Inaction in February 2020 cost us. "A month of lost opportunity to avert a pandemic, as so many countries chose to wait and see."
  4. We didn't learn from our past. "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."

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  1. The next steps won't be simple. "The recommendations are ambitious and crucial," and include amping up the WHO's authority to investigate outbreaks. "WHO should have the powers necessary to investigate outbreaks of concern, speedily guaranteed rights of access, and with the ability to publish information without waiting for member state approval," said Clark.
  2. Or, perhaps, doable. A professor of international politics at Queen Mary University of London tells the AP member states probably won't embrace the recommendations, meaning they won't likely come to pass. As she puts it: "Which states would actually allow WHO in to investigate an outbreak without their permission?"
  3. Some criticized the panel. The AP presents two lines of criticism: that the panel didn't fault the WHO more explicitly, and that it "fail[ed] to call out bad actors like China, perpetuating the dysfunctional WHO tradition of diplomacy over frankness, transparency, and accountability."
(Read more coronavirus stories.)

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