The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response Considers its Recommendations for May report

5th Panel meeting maps out key areas for recommendations  

With more than 2.6 million people now deceased as a result of COVID-19, and a projected $22 trillion in cumulative output loss through 2025, the Co-Chairs of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response have restated why the system of pandemic preparedness, alert, and response requires a reset.  

If the existing system, from the global to the national levels was good enough, the worst would not have happened,” said Co-Chair Helen Clark, at the opening of this week’s Panel meeting.  “The status quo isn’t just not good enough; it has actually had catastrophic consequences,” she said. 

Socio-Economic Impacts 

At its 5th meeting, held virtually on March 17-18, the Panel discussed reports on the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, including on the labour market and on education. It noted the International Monetary Fund’s projection that COVID-19 will cost $22 trillion in projected cumulative output loss over 2020-2025 relative to pre-pandemic projections.

Co-Chair Ellen Johnson Sirleaf stressed that behind those enormous numbers are millions of people who have suffered incalculable setbacks, from which recovery will be difficult. 

People who are poor, people who are marginalized, and those who have faced structural injustices have been at a great disadvantage during the pandemic. This must not continue through the recovery. We must keep their lives and their voices at the heart of our conclusions and recommendations.” 

The Panel noted the accumulating evidence of the impact of school closures on children and adolescents. According to the World Bank, as a result of the pandemic 72 million more primary school-aged children may not be able to read or understand a simple text by age 10.

School closures will have an outsized impact on those girls who will not return at all. They are estimated at 11 million and have also been placed at higher risk of early marriage, adolescent pregnancy and violence.

National Responses

The Panel also considered an in-depth analysis of 28 countries, ranging across those which experienced low mortality to those experiencing high mortality from the pandemic. Common features identified for countries with high mortality included a tendency for leaders to devalue public health and/or deny social and economic supports, delay the response, and distrust science.  By contrast, those with low mortality had whole-of-government approaches and effective leadership, coordination of health delivery services, applied learnings from previous outbreaks, and demonstrated trust in scientific advice. 

Towards Recommendations

Based on the extensive evidence gathered to date, the Panel considered a range of recommendation areas aimed at resetting the international pandemic preparedness and alert system.  

These include solving the problems of speed and transparency in alert and response; country preparedness; the authority of and support for the World Health Organization; equitable access to diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines; accountability internationally and in countries; fit-for-purpose financing; and ensuring a whole-of-government approach to pandemics because they impact not only health and health services, but also education; jobs and livelihoods; businesses large, medium, and small; economies overall; migration; social wellbeing; and many other areas.  

Co-Chair Sirleaf stressed the absolute need for and the potential for change. “History has proven there is nothing we cannot do if we are united as one global community. The depth of the transformation we seek together requires of us bold recommendations aimed at dismantling the underlying structures which nurture inequities.” 

Outreach, Consultations and Exchanges

As the Panel moves towards finalising its conclusions and recommendations, it is continuing to listen to people who have experiences and ideas to share. Co-Chair Helen Clark will anchor a town-hall style “Exchange” meeting on the impact of the pandemic on people with noncommunicable diseases on March 25th. The Panel will also hear directly about more national experiences and will continue consultations with civil society and other groupings.   

The Independent Panel welcomes continued submissions to its website.  The Panel appreciates efforts made by external groups, such as the Pandemic Action Network, to contribute experiences and ideas, including on the socio-economic impacts and on the considerations for global vaccine roll-out. 

May Report and Next Steps 

The Independent Panel is scheduled to launch its main report the week of May 10 2021 in a virtual event.  The Panel will also publish the background papers providing the evidence on which the Report is based. The Co-Chairs will present the report findings to the 74th World Health Assembly scheduled to begin May 24.  

The Independent Panel is scheduled to meet next on April 14-15, 2021, when it will finalise its recommendations. 

Background for Editors 

The Independent Panel was established by the WHO’s Director-General in response to World Health Assembly resolution 73.1.  

Its mandate is to review experience gained and lessons learned from the WHO-coordinated international response to COVID-19.  The Independent Panel comprises thirteen members, including Co-Chairs the Rt Hon. Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, and Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia.   

The mission of the Independent Panel is to provide an evidence-based path for the future, grounded in lessons of the present and the past to ensure countries and global institutions, including specifically WHO, effectively address health threats. 

The Independent Panel will establish facts about global and country responses to COVID-19, distill lessons learned, and will make recommendations for how the world can be better prepared to respond both to the current pandemic, and to future global health threats. 

The Panel is following a Program of Work, established based on its Terms of Reference. 

For more information:

See the Independent Panel’s website:  Media and other stakeholders interested in continued updates on the Independent Panel can join the mailing list from the website.  

Media enquiries can be directed to Christine McNab, Independent Panel Communication Lead; McNabC@Ipppr.organd at +1 416 986 2068 (residing in Toronto, Canada). 

Enquiries to the Secretariat:

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