Friday, June 18

Covid Response Was a Global Series of Failures, W.H.O. Panel Says


Laying bare a yearlong cascade of failures, a World Health Organization panel recounts in a damning report how governments and public health organizations worldwide responded slowly and ineffectively to the coronavirus, despite years of warnings.

The interim report, an early blueprint for reform, describes the faulty assumptions, ineffective planning and sluggish responses — including missteps by the W.H.O., itself — that helped fuel a pandemic that has killed more than two million people.

“We have failed in our collective capacity to come together in solidarity to create a protective web of human security,” the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response writes.

Many of the failings, such as the inability of governments to obtain protective equipment or do widespread contact tracing, have long been painfully clear over the course of the pandemic. But the report is stark in its assessment that, time and again, those who were responsible for protecting and leading failed to do either.

Too often, investigators found, national leaders made health decisions with an eye on keeping their economies afloat, though they did not single out many nations for criticism. That proved to be a false choice. The panel found that countries that responded forcefully and effectively to the outbreak also fared better economically even as the global economy lost more than $7 trillion.

“This is clearly a case where billions can save trillions,” the report says.

That conclusion is an implicit rebuke of countries like the United States, where President Trump demanded the country stay open for business. “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself,” he said in late March, when 30,000 Americans had tested positive.

That figure is now over 23 million, and the country leads the world with nearly 400,000 deaths.

Looking forward, the panel noted that inequality imperiled the world’s vaccine rollout. To demonstrate that disparity, the report includes a chart showing when countries expected to vaccinate their populations.

Rich countries like the United States expect to be nearly finished with their campaigns by the end of the year; poor countries are unlikely to have even vaccinated their vulnerable populations by then. Their vaccine campaigns are expected to continue until the end of 2023.

“Whether you happen to be born in Liberia, or New Zealand, or anywhere else, should not be the factor that determines your place in the vaccine queue,” the report says.



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