The Covid-19 pandemic "could have been prevented" if the world had acted sooner, an independent panel appointed by the World Health Organization and headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf found on Wednesday.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Sirleaf said:
This is an ongoing disaster that we believe could have been prevented. The evidence shows that an outbreak became a pandemic because of failures, gaps and delays in preparedness and response. This was partly due to a failure to learn from the past."
The panel found that WHO should have declared an emergency sooner and that urgent actions are now needed to prevent another pandemic. The report also said the current national and international systems in place were "not adequate to protect people from COVID-19" and that February 2020 was "a lost month."
The time it took from the reporting of a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown origin in mid-late December 2019 to a Public Health Emergency of International Concern being declared was too long."
The panel urged the international community to prepare for a future outbreak and prevent it from becoming a pandemic. It recommended reforms such as:
- A new global system for surveillance based on full transparency should be established.
- This system would provide the WHO with the authority to publish information about outbreaks with pandemic potential on an immediate basis without needing to seek approval and to dispatch experts to investigate at the shortest possible notice.
- All governments to invest in national preparedness now as it will be too late when the next public health crisis hits.