In one of the first speeches after his appointment, Tedros Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General, noted that ‘in an interconnected world, we are only as strong as our weakest link.’ No country is safe if disease transmission is active in some parts of the world. COVID-19 hit the wealthiest countries hard, with effects far beyond health, while some middle- and lower middle-income countries managed to get their situations under control. In addition to the levels of pandemic preparedness, the disparities reflect the characteristics of the various health systems, such as emphasis on primary health care, extent of public funding for health care, public-private mix in healthcare delivery and adequacy of human resources in health. COVID-19 is confirming the importance of community engagement and ownership, and informed and community-supported self-directed health and hygiene behaviours of each individual in controlling the pandemic. ‘Solidarity’ has become a symbol of the COVID-19 response – from the global level and down to the grassroots. One remarkable achievement has been demonstrated in healthcare facilities. To save lives when the flood of patients was overwhelming hospitals and ICUs, national and international aid teams were sent – either voluntarily or through their organizations -- to create and maintain surge capacity.
Now that some countries have successfully managed to bring the first wave of COVID-19 under control, it is time to take an early look back and consider what could have been done differently to improve outcomes in all countries. In advance of COVID-19, a series of infectious threats --SARS, highly pathogenic avian influenza virus infection, MERS, and the first pandemic of the century, 2009 H1N1 influenza – had already established a pattern of potential but imminent pandemic emergence, and adoption of IHR(2005) by all Member States should have pushed development of core capacities for detection, reporting, and mitigation to the top of the priority list for national and international leaders and their communities. However, countries have often failed to deliver on this mandate due to other pressing priorities and, notably, a lack of financial commitment: response overrides preparedness. How did these lapses affect countries’ readiness for and response to COVID-19?
Webinar sessions under sub-theme 1 have addressed lessons learned so far in key areas such as governance, communication, socio-economic impact and readiness/preparedness of countries. Chairs of each webinars will discuss about the outcomes or their sessions and build together a framework to better manage future pandemics. The analytical framework will comprise a list of lessons learned and key actionable recommendations, translating collective experience into action.
Head of Secretariat, Global Preparedness Monitoring Board
World Health Organization
Chair of the International Advisory Board
Global Health Centre, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies
Director, HIV, Health and Development Group
United Nations Development Programme