World needs to break the cycle of ‘panic-then-forget’: WHO on Covid-19 response

(Pic courtesy: WHO)

New Delhi (NVI): The best time to prevent the next pandemic is now and the world needs to break the cycle of “panic-then-forget” once and for all, as this cycle has prevented the development of effective health emergency preparedness across the globe, the World Health Organisation has observed.

While participating at a high-level virtual event that was co-hosted by Finland, France and Indonesia, the global health body maintained its earlier view that COVID-19 will not be the world’s last health emergency and there is an urgent need for sustainable health emergency preparedness to deal with the next one.

The strong sentiment was shared by participants of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) side-event on ‘Sustainable preparedness for health security and resilience: Adopting a whole-of-society approach and breaking the “panic-then-forget” cycle’.

“Past crises have shown that once an outbreak is under control, governments and donors tend to turn their attention to other pressing concerns. This cycle of “panic-then-forget” has prevented the development of effective health emergency preparedness across the globe. The world needs to break this cycle once and for all,” the WHO said in a release.

It is pertinent to mention here that this week, the world crossed a grim milestone with over a million lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many more expected to have died from unprecedented disruptions to the health systems.

“Over the years we have had many reports, reviews and recommendations all saying the same thing: the world is not prepared for a pandemic. COVID-19 has laid bare the truth: when the time came, the world was still not ready,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, in his opening address.

He called for investing in preparedness, with an all-of-government and all-of-society approach. “This will not be the last pandemic, nor the last global health emergency. But with the right political and financial investments now, we can advance health security, prevent and mitigate future pandemics, and protect our future and the future of generations to come,” he said.

The countries that participated in the virtual event, also spoke of their commitment to health emergency preparedness.

Closing the event, Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme, appreciated the participants’ remarks, and asked for them to be met with sustained commitment to preparedness.

“We cannot, cannot, cannot let the world forget because the next one may not be anything but the worst one,” he said. “This (COVID-19) may just be a harbinger of what may come, we are living with too much risk,” he said.

The event marked a crucial dialogue among countries, donors and partners on building back better for future emergency preparedness during the current COVID-19 pandemic, and beyond. It comes on the heels of the release of a sobering report by the Global Preparedness and Monitoring Board that also called for urgent action in this area, the WHO said.

According to the report, investments in preparedness would only cost US$ 5 per person annually, whereas the cost of this pandemic is already over US$ 11 trillion and counting.