Pandemics to emerge more often in future, may kill more people than Covid: Report

Coronavirus cases surge past 53.8 mn globally; death toll mounts to 1.3 mn
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New Delhi (NVI): The pandemics in future will emerge more often, spread more rapidly and will kill more people than COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report.

This can only be prevented by bringing a transformative change in the global approach to dealing with infectious diseases, warned experts from around the world.

The report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), published in the journal EurekAlert, in which experts agree that escaping the era of pandemics is possible, but that this will require a seismic shift in approach from reaction to prevention.

In the report, the experts explained the link between degradation of nature and increasing pandemic risks.

“COVID-19 is at least the sixth global health pandemic since the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918, although it has its origins in microbes carried by animals, like all pandemics its emergence has been entirely driven by human activities,” the IPBES report said.

It is estimated that another 1.7 million currently ‘undiscovered’ viruses exist in mammals and birds – of which up to 850,000 could have the ability to infect people.

“There is no great mystery about the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic or of any modern pandemic, said Peter Daszak, President of EcoHealth Alliance.

“Changes in the way we use land; the expansion and intensification of agriculture; and unsustainable trade, production and consumption disrupt nature and increase contact between wildlife, livestock, pathogens and people. This is the path to pandemics,” he added.

The report also said that, pandemic risk can be significantly lowered by reducing the human activities that drive the loss of biodiversity, by greater conservation of protected areas and through measures that reduce unsustainable exploitation of high biodiversity regions.

However, this will reduce wildlife-livestock-human contact and help prevent the spillover of new diseases. “The overwhelming scientific evidence points to a very positive conclusion,” said Daszak.

Furthermore, the report said that relying on responses to diseases after their emergence, such as public health measures and technological solutions, is a “slow and uncertain path”, underscoring both the widespread human suffering and the tens of billions of dollars in annual economic damage to the global economy of reacting to pandemics.

The IPBES report also offers a number of policy options that would help to reduce and address pandemic risk. One of these is launching a high-level intergovernmental council on pandemic prevention.

Speaking about the report, Anne Larigauderie, Executive Secretary of IPBES said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of science and expertise to inform policy and decision-making.”

“Although it is not one of the typical IPBES intergovernmental assessments reports, this is an extraordinary peer-reviewed expert publication, representing the perspectives of some of the world’s leading scientists, with the most up-to-date evidence and produced under significant time constraints,” she added.