An Interim report is both a bleak recounting of deadly missteps and an early blueprint for repairs : " We have failed in our collective capacity."
Laying bare a yearlong cascade of failures, a World Health Organization panel recounts in a damning report how governments and public health organizations worldwide responded slowly and ineffectively to the coronavirus, despite years of warnings.
The interim report, an early blueprint for reform, describes the faulty assumptions, ineffective planning and sluggish responses - including missteps by the W.H.O., itself - that helped fuel a pandemic that has killed more than two (2) million people.
" We have failed in our collective capacity to come together in solidarity to create a protective web of human security," the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response writers.
Many of the failings, such as the inability of governments to obtain protective equipment or do widespread contact tracing, have long been painfully clear over the course of the pandemic. But the report is stark in its assessment that, time and again, those who were responsible for protecting and leading failed to do either.
The panel, led by Helen Clark, a former prime minister of New Zealand, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a former president of Liberia, is still conducting its investigation. But in drafting an interim report, and laying out the scope of its inquiry, the panel makes clear that the world needs to rethink its approach to outbreaks.
The report describes one failure leading to another, from the "slow, cumbersome and indecisive" pandemic alert system, to the years of preparedness plans that failed to deliver, to the disjointed and even obstructive responses of national governments.
Public health officials stumbled, too. Investigators said they could not understand why a World Health Organization committee waited until January 30 to declare an international health emergency.
And despite the decades of predictions that a viral pandemic was inevitable, and years of committees, task forces and high-level panels aimed at preparing the W.H.O. for that emergency, reforms were slow to come. "The failure to enact fundamental change despite the warnings issued has left the world dangerously exposed, as the COVID-19 pandemic proves," the report says.
But the W.H.O.'s stumbles did not excuse the repeated failing of world leaders. For even after health officials gave a clear warning signal, the report notes, " In far too many countries, this signal was ignored."
The report also faults public health leaders for responding slowly to early evidence that people without symptoms could spread the new coronavirus. Early reports out of China, and one in Germany, documented this phenomenon. But leading health agencies, including the World Health Organization, provided contradictory and sometimes misleading advice, a New York Times investigating previously found.
W.H.O.'s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, appointed the panel to review the world's COVID-19 response. Although the panel said the report was based on hundreds of documents, expert consultations and more than 100 interviews with frontline responders, it is not clear if the investigators have spoken to key health officials or reviewed internal documents.
Many of the initial findings have been previously identified or been obvious for many months. But the collection of mistakes remains shocking even when it is not surprising, and by spelling them out, the panel hopes to chart a course for change.
The organization declined to comment on the report before its member governments had reviewed it.
Details in the 34-page report are thin, but it says that China had genome sequencing evidence that a novel virus was circulating in Wuhan in December 2019. Health authorities there could have moved more quickly and decisively to contain the outbreak, the report says, yet country after country repeated many of the same mistakes.
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@ Jackie San