A Statement from H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the Rt Hon. Helen Clark on the end of COVID-19 as a public health emergency of international concern
The COVID-19 global emergency has been declared over, and has been a global catastrophe.
COVID-19 has led to the deaths of some twenty million people, caused long-lasting physical and mental health impacts, battered health workers and systems, slowed and reversed the gains made on the Sustainable Development Goals, has led to multiple trillions in economic losses, and has weakened social cohesion in many countries. Recovery will take years, especially for lower-income countries. We now also have permanent costs associated with managing a now endemic disease.
Another such pandemic must not happen again. The toll of the COVID-19 pandemic demands that global leaders commit to transformative reforms that protect the world from pandemic threats. The current system for pandemic preparedness and response remains fatally broken.
There are solutions to fix the system. In our role as Co-Chairs of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, we made evidence-based recommendations for transformative change. We continue to advocate for them because we believe the current rates and ambition of reform will not prevent another pandemic catastrophe.
Last week we issued a new report titled A Road Map for a World Protected from Pandemic Threats. In it, we call on political leaders to commit to reforms in six essential areas, in order to transform the international system for pandemic preparedness and response.
Leaders must seize the opportunity at the UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response on 20 September 2023.
The six areas requiring UNGA commitment are:
- Political leadership from Presidents and Prime Ministers: pandemic threats are complex global crises with impacts extending well beyond the health sector. They are economic, social, and security matters. The gap in high-level coordinated leadership was one of the major failures that led to the catastrophic multi sectoral impacts of COVID-19.
Therefore, former Independent Panel members and many others continue to call for an independent high-level global health threats council, comprised of Heads of States and Government, to ensure sustained multi-sectoral focus on pandemic preparedness and response. The cycle of panic and neglect must be broken for good.
- International rules for pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response: The World Health Assembly processes towards negotiation of a pandemic accord and amended International Health Regulations should be fully supported to reach successful conclusion, with rules that serve to detect, report, investigate, and stop pandemic threats wherever they occur.
- Independent monitoring: to promote accountability, a fully independent, multi-sectoral expert monitoring board should be established that would collect and analyze information from multiple sources, and regularly publish public reports.
- An equitable, operational ecosystem for pandemic countermeasures: that is truly ‘end to end’ to serve public health goals in every country and for every community. It should be based on a global commons model, regional resilience, openness, and technology sharing. It must begin with regional research and development of diagnostics, vaccines, and therapies that can stop outbreaks when and where they occur.
- Sufficient financing for preparedness and for crisis response: The additional funds required pale in comparison to the trillions in losses caused by COVID-19.
For preparedness, US$10.5 billion is required annually for low- and middle-income countries. So far only around 10% of that has been committed to The Pandemic Fund.
For emergencies, US$50-$100 billion must be made available immediately when a threat emerges to protect low- and middle-income countries from catastrophic economic and fiscal crises, and ensure purchase of pandemic supplies. A mechanism to identify and trigger those funds must be urgently agreed.
- An independent, authoritative WHO: To tackle the next health threat with pandemic potential, Member States must support WHO to have the authority, independence, and funding required to play its essential role: to support countries to minimise the risks of health emergencies, and to minimise their consequences.
Pathogens that can spread and cause catastrophic harms will continue to emerge. After the devastating three years the world has suffered, political leaders have a clear choice: it’s time for bold, cohesive reforms to ensure a world protected from pandemic threats.
For more information:
Read the Road Map: bit.ly/RMprotect
More about The Independent Panel: The former Co-Chairs led The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response. together with 11 distinguished panelists. They spent eight months rigorously reviewing various dimensions of the pandemic. In May 2021 the Co-Chairs submitted their evidence-based landmark report entitled COVID-19: Make it the Last Pandemic to the World Health Assembly. They made recommendations which, taken as a package, could transform the international system in a way that could make it the last pandemic of such devastation.The Independent Panel was established by the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General in response to the World Health Assembly resolution 73.1 issued in May 2020.
The recommendations of The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response in its report, COVID-19: Make it the Last Pandemic, have helped to lay the groundwork for ongoing reforms to the international system. Former Independent Panel Co-Chairs and members continue to advocate for implementation of the full package of recommendations due to concerns about the failure to implement recommendations of past high-level reviews of major outbreaks. Their interest is to see a fit-for-purpose, transformed, and effective international system for pandemic preparedness and response. The former Co-Chairs and members continue to do this work in their own time because of the serious implications of lack of transformative change being made..
Contact: Christine McNab in Toronto, Canada: +1 416 986-2068; email: ChristineMcNab@gmail.com