A new report has been released by the Lancet Covid-19 Commission – a group of 28 international experts in epidemiology, vaccinology, public policy, and international cooperation established in 2020. According to the report, the death toll from Covid-19 is “both a profound tragedy and a massive global failure at multiple levels.”
“Too many governments have failed to adhere to basic norms of institutional rationality and transparency, too many people – often influenced by misinformation – have disrespected and protested against basic public health precautions, and the world’s major powers have failed to collaborate to control the pandemic,” the report authors explained.
The commission identified some major failures in handling the pandemic, including: a lack of timely notification of the initial outbreak in Wuhan, delays in acknowledging the fact that SARS-CoV-2 is airborne, lack of coordination among countries regarding suppression strategies, and the failure of many governments to properly examine available evidence and adopt the best policies for pandemic management. The experts also acknowledged a lack of funding for low- and middle-income countries, poor enforcement of biosafety regulations prior to the pandemic, and failure to combat misinformation in the wider population.
The commissioners criticized the World Health Organization (WHO) for acting too cautiously and too slowly on several crucial matters, such as warning about the virus’ transmissibility or declaring a state of emergency of international concern earlier. Moreover, many national governments were also considered too slow in acknowledging the severity of the outbreak, while the public opposition to social distancing measures or vaccination campaigns “seriously hindered” epidemic control. However, the experts have also identified “some important bright spots” in response to the pandemic, such as the fast development of vaccines.
Regarding the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the experts argued that “all three research-associated hypotheses are still plausible: infection in the field, infection with a natural virus in the laboratory, and infection with a manipulated virus in the laboratory. No independent, transparent, and science-based investigation has been carried out regarding the bioengineering of SARS-like viruses that was underway before the outbreak of Covid-19.”
To avoid future failures in the management of the Covid pandemic and other possible public health threats, the scientists made several recommendations, including better global coordination of efforts to end the pandemic through vaccination campaign and other non-medical strategies, an intensification of the search for the origins of the virus, a strengthening of the WHO and national healthcare systems, and increased efforts to prevent future pandemics by quickly identifying and controlling both natural and research-related spillovers.
The report is published in the journal The Lancet.