3 ways that WHO, states failed on Covid-19: Expert panel

The International Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response called for a new transparent global system to be set up for investigating disease outbreaks.
The International Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response called for a new transparent global system to be set up for investigating disease outbreaks.PHOTO: REUTERS

GENEVA (REUTERS) - The International Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response issued its report on Wednesday (May 12) into the global handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, calling for a new transparent global system to be set up for investigating disease outbreaks.

The report, "Covid-19: Make it the Last Pandemic", is to be debated at the World Health Organisation's annual ministerial assembly opening on May 24.

Here are the main findings and recommendations of the panel of independent experts led by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf:

Failings

1. The World Health Organisation (WHO) should have declared the new coronavirus outbreak in China an international emergency earlier instead of waiting to Jan 30, it said.

2. The WHO's Emergency Committee did not recommend travel restrictions, due to WHO's International Health Regulations, which "serve to constrain rather than facilitate rapid action" and need revamping, it said.

3. Governments failed to grasp that the Jan 30 emergency declaration was WHO's "loudest possible alarm" and that it has no authority to declare a pandemic. Many countries failed to take strong measures until the WHO eventually did describe it as a pandemic on March 11, it said.

Recommendations

The panel of independent experts called for setting up a new global system for surveillance of disease outbreaks that could spark a pandemic.

WHO should be empowered to dispatch experts to investigate outbreaks at short notice, obtain pathogen samples and publish information without prior government approval.

The WHO and World Trade Organisation (WTO) should convene governments and drugmakers to hammer out an agreement on voluntary licensing and technology transfers to boost vaccine production, the report said.

If that fails to happen within three months, a waiver of intellectual property rights under the WTO's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights should come into force immediately, it said.

A new funding model should be set up to halt the system of earmarking funds in the UN agency's budget and to increase member states' fees.

The experts called for setting up a Global Health Threats Council, to be led at the head of state and government level, to maintain political commitment to pandemic preparedness.

An international pandemic financing facility should be established to mobilise US$5 billion to US$10 billion annually for pandemic preparedness, they said.