Spending US$5 per person annually on global health security over the next five years could prevent a future “catastrophic” pandemic, former WHO director-general Gro Harlem Brundtland said.
It would cost the world billions of dollars, but that amount would be a huge saving on the US$11 trillion response to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Brundtland, who, with other prominent international experts, sounded the alarm over the threat of a fast-spreading deadly pandemic in September last year.
The costs are based on estimates by McKinsey & Co, which found the average annual costs to prepare for pandemic over the next five years would be equivalent to US$4.70 per capita.
Brundtland, cochair of the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB) and a former prime minister of Norway, said there had been a collective failure to take prevention and response seriously, and to prioritize it.
“We are all paying the price,” she said.
The GPMB, co-convened by the World Bank and the WHO, said in its inaugural report last year that the world was grossly unprepared for the threat of a global health crisis, which the board predicted could be caused by a lethal respiratory pathogen.
“We knew it was a real threat, which is why we called the alarm,” Brundtland said.
“We saw the preparedness was far from what it should have been at that time,” she said.
COVID-19 has provided a harsh test that proved them right, she said.
“Because what we are in the middle of can happen again. We need to be better prepared,” she added.
The board’s second report, published yesterday, says another pandemic is “sure to come” without strong leadership, solidarity and collective global action.
“We have created a world where a shock anywhere can become a catastrophe everywhere, while growing nationalism and populism undermine our shared peace, prosperity and security,” the report’s foreword said.
Infectious diseases feed off divisiveness, and divisions in society can be deadly, it said.
The GMPB’s members, who also include US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, Wellcome Trust director Jeremy Farrar and Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director George Gao (高福), said global health security could not continue to be funded by development assistance.
They called for stronger support for international institutions, more responsive financial systems and for a UN summit on global health security to be convened to agree a framework to prepare and respond to future health emergencies.
They called for COVID-19 vaccines and other treatments to be allocated fairly and equitably.
All countries should receive enough vaccine for at least 2 percent of their populations, they said.
Brundtland said it was unfortunate that US President Donald Trump had refused to join a global scheme set up by the WHO to distribute COVID-19 vaccines.
SECRET OUT: Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung yesterday accidentally revealed that the infections occurred at the ministry’s Taoyuan General Hospital The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported the fifth COVID-19 case in a cluster infection at a Taoyuan hospital, where four other medical workers were confirmed to have been infected over the past week. The latest case is a nurse who had tested negative on Tuesday last week, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, told a news conference. However, on Thursday, she developed symptoms, such as nasal congestion and a cough, and a second test yesterday found that she was infected, Chen said. She is the head nurse of a ward where two
VIGILANCE: While two of the cases are family members of a nurse, there is no sign of community spread and the source of infection is identifiable, the CECC said The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported four new domestic COVID-19 cases associated with a cluster infection at a Taoyuan hospital. Since the first case was identified on Tuesday last week, five healthcare workers — two doctors and three nurses — at the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Taoyuan General Hospital have tested positive for the virus. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that two of the four new cases are the husband and daughter of a nurse (case No. 863) who had earlier been confirmed to have COVID-19. The husband (case No. 864)
PILLARS OF DEMOCRACY: US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft posted online after the virtual meeting that Taiwan should be able to share its successes in global venues President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft yesterday held a virtual meeting, during which Tsai described Taiwan as a “force for good” that deserves a place on the world stage, while Craft reaffirmed Washington’s support for Taiwan’s international participation. The virtual talk was held at about 11am, after Craft’s trip to Taiwan was abruptly canceled. She had been scheduled to meet with Tsai in person at the Presidential Office in Taipei yesterday morning as part of a three-day visit to Taiwan. On Tuesday, the US Department of State canceled all of its planned trips, citing a need
Don Quijote, the biggest discount store in Japan, is opening its first store in Taiwan today. The three-story Don Don Donki store in Taipei’s Ximending (西門町) area, which operates 24 hours a day, has already created 400 jobs, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) said in a press release. Many Taiwanese, including Taipei Deputy Mayor Vivian Huang (黃珊珊), consider a trip to Don Quijote an essential stop in Japan. “I have been to Don Quijote at least 10 times myself,” Huang said yesterday at a news conference announcing the store’s opening. “They are rendering an important service, because we cannot travel