Panel blasts COVID-19 response: ‘Global political leadership was absent’

A prominent panel of political and public health leaders has blasted the international and national response to the coronavirus pandemic, labeling slow and tepid reactions around the world as a preventable disaster that cost millions of lives.

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response issued a report on Wednesday that called on wealthier countries to do more to help the world end the pandemic and to bolster the global health systems meant to act as a front-line defense to prevent future outbreaks.

It is clear, the report found, that the world was not prepared, even after decades of warnings that a serious pathogen was poised to sweep the globe.

“COVID-19 remains a global disaster. Worse, it was a preventable disaster,” the report says.

Criticism on response: The report criticized the formal procedures for alerting other nations, an implicit rebuke of China’s early moves to downplay the severity of the virus and to censure those who sounded the alarm, costing the world valuable time to prepare.

Even after the World Health Organization itself issued a public health emergency of international concern, the highest level of warning it can offer, “too many countries took a ‘wait and see’ approach rather than enacting an aggressive containment strategy that could have forestalled the global pandemic.”

What’s next: Going forward, the panel urged the creation of a Global Health Threats Council led by heads of state. Those heads of state, they said, should adopt a special declaration at the U.N. General Assembly in September to radically prioritize pandemic preparedness.