In the past months, the COVID-19 (or SARS-Cov-2) pandemic has been presented as unforeseen and unavoidable. Its management was approximate (at best) because “we were not ready” and/or “we didn’t know enough”… However, a correct review of the chronology of the events suggests otherwise.
It all started when, in 2002, in China (really?), the then-called South Asia Respiratory Syndrome (or simply SARS) exploded. It was the cause of death for about 800 individuals and it showed, already, what a pandemic could bring. The World Health Organisation (WHO) understood it and urgently issued in 2005 (!) the International Health Regulations, which define rules and processes to be followed, with a view to strengthening a common response to such crisis. By the way: that SARS has been recently renamed SARS-Cov-1…
No money and no action
Virtually nothing happens.
In 2009, the WHO came back again to ask Governments around the world to strengthen their plans against pandemics, learning lessons from the swine flu (H1n1), just brought under control.
In 2013, the European Union Parliament and Council took a decision on “serious cross-border threats to health”. But most individual nations plans were not updated consistently, making the decision almost void…
2014 was the year of Ebola. Miraculously avoided. Scary enough to convince the world leaders to launch the Global Health Security Agenda (GSHA): it expanded the scope of the Global Health Security Initiative (GSHI), which had been created by the G7 in 2001, just after 9/11, to contrast terror bio-attacks. The sponsor was President Barack Obama; thirty nations signed up; forty more would follow with time, together with international organisations and NGOs.
The international cooperation was supposed to produce a plan and common standards and practices for surveillance, tests and crisis management (…). It was about putting into practice the 2005 International Health Regulations.Julie Fischer, Head of Communications at the GHSA
In a nutshell: 2014 still nothing.
The 2015 Middle-Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS, now renamed MERS-Cov) and the 2016 outburst of the Zika virus were not enough to bring adequate funding to the GSHA: 1.2 billion Euros were promised by European Governments but only half of that amount was actually disbursed; even the USA gave only 700 million dollars out of the billion they promised… This is, in essence, the result of the Global Fund Contributions to Health Security: Mapping Synergies between Vertical Disease Programs and Capacities for Preventing, Detecting, and Responding to Public Health Emergencies paper by M. R. Boyce, A. Attal-Juncqua, J. Lin, S. McKay and R. Katz, all from the Centre for Global Health Science and Security of the Georgetown University in Washington DC. In 2017, while Chinese and US researchers were publishing yet another study, which was forecasting a bold return of coronavirus SARS from bats (!!!), only the Congress veto saved the US contribution to the GSHA: President Trump would repeatedly attempt to cut the funding….
“Doing nothing” is expensive. In September 2019, a WHO study anticipated that a yearly investment of 1.7 ~ 3 billion Euros to strengthen the various health systems could save about 26 billion Euros in unforeseen damage: almost exactly Italy’s loss in GDP up to June 2020, as recently estimated…
Because of the inability to stop Covid-19 at inception, Governments have destroyed their economies by adopting the same drastic containment measures that were used to fight the plague in the XVII century.Jean-Dominique Michel, Health Anthropology, IHEID (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies), Geneva, Switzerland
It needs to be noted that the tensions between China and the USA prevented the WHO could not conduct independent inspections and alert the international community. This is not recent information: documents from the Georgetown University in Washington DC reveal that these inspections powers were opposed by China and the USA, behind the scenes of the discussions about IHR in 2005. These are the same super-powers that accuse one another of spreading fake news…
As promised, the above is just a summarised chronology of events that provides a potential explanation of why we are where we are: mistakes in management that cost lives.
Governments continuously assert that their approach is backed by science, but we had a hint from Jean-Dominique Michel (his blog in French is here) that there is more science that has been ignored.
Not being a subject matter expert puts me in no position to argue on any of the above; however, it has not been difficult for me to dig information that raises a long series of doubts. But who is going to answer them?
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