The Independent Panel Works to Establish Authoritative Chronology of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response is working to establish an authoritative chronology of the emergence, global recommendations, national response, and impacts of SARS-CoV2, the virus which causes COVID-19.

The chronology is part of the Independent Panel’s “Program of Work” – the roadmap which describes the themes and research questions the Panel will answer in the months ahead.

“The Independent Panel seeks to establish why SARS-CoV2 grew into a global pandemic. The authoritative chronology will help to anchor the Independent Panel’s analysis of what has happened and to identify lessons learned,” said Helen Clark, Co-Chair of the Independent Panel. 

To help establish the chronology, the Panel will consult epidemiological experts and will review scientific literature.  It will co-ordinate with scientists investigating the origins of the virus; review WHO’s recommendations as COVID-19 spread; undertake a review of grey literature including media and other reports; and examine WHO’s internal documents as necessary.  Additional information, such as excess mortality data, will also be examined.

National Responses

The Independent Panel is also establishing a framework through which to understand national and subnational responses.

“The Panel will look at the different ways in which countries have responded, and how those have impacted the trajectory of the pandemic,” said Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Co-Chair of the Independent Panel.

“Country willingness and capacity to respond to COVID-19 have impacted whether COVID-19 spread or was contained, whether people became ill or stayed healthy, and whether economies were shattered or protected.”  

The Panel will document actions in areas such as co-ordination of the national and sub-national responses, preparedness of the health system for a pandemic, community engagement, and implementation of public health and border control measures.

Countries for analysis will be chosen based on criteria including the type of outbreak – such as whether COVID-19 was contained early; flared early and was then contained; included more than one wave of infections; or was not addressed early and has continued to have sizeable outbreaks. 

The Program of Work

The Independent Panel published its Program of Work this week. This is the roadmap which guides the Panel’s review. The Program of Work is a living document and will evolve as work progresses and the pandemic evolves. It sets out the four main themes for enquiry:

  • Build on the past: learn from previous pandemics and understand the status of the health security system and actors pre-COVID-19.
  • Review the present: develop an accurate chronology of events and activities in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the recommendations made by WHO and responses to them.
  • Understand the impacts: Review the direct and indirect impacts of both the pandemic and the response measures.
  • Change for the future:  An analysis and vision for a strengthened international system which is well equipped for pandemic preparedness and response.

Consultations Begin

The Independent Panel will draw from the knowledge of a range of people who have expertise in the themes under review, and from the experiences of those who have been affected directly by the pandemic.

“The Panel wants to hear from everyone who wants to contribute,” said Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. “We will hold some private expert consultations, open webinars and town hall-style meetings, and meet with groups who don’t have online access. We invite contributions from any group or individual who has a view on the future of pandemic preparedness and response.”

As one form of outreach, an invitation to contribute experiences, views, and ideas through web-based questionnaires will soon be published on the Panel website.

The Independent Panel’s analysis of facts and lessons learned will contribute to the recommendations which it formulates. As the Co-Chairs told the Panel at its second meeting on 20 and 21 October, its recommendations should be “implementable, assign owners, and indicate both timescales and the financial and human resources needed to execute them.”

The Program of Work, and documents from the first and second Independent Panel meeting are published on

Background for Editors

 The Independent Panel was established by the World Health Organization’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 Independent Panel will present a progress report to the resumed 73rd World Health Assembly scheduled from 9-14 November, and a second progress report to the WHO Executive Board scheduled from 18-26 January 2021. The Panel will report to the 74th World Health Assembly in May 2021. 

The next Panel meeting is scheduled for 9-10 December 2020.

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; and at +1 416 986 2068 (residing in Toronto, Canada).

Enquiries to the Secretariat:

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