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World not a better place to fight pandemics than before COVID: WHO

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LONDON — The world is no better prepared for a new pandemic than it was when the coronavirus emerged in 2019 and may in fact be worse off given the economic toll, according to a panel set up by the World Health Organization (WHO) to assess the global response.

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A lack of progress on reforms such as international health regulations means the world is more vulnerable than ever, the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response said in its report.

The authors, led by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, acknowledged some progress, including on stronger funding for the WHO, but said the process was going a long way. too slowly.

“We currently have the same tools and system that existed in December 2019 to respond to a pandemic threat. And those tools just weren’t good enough,” Clark told reporters.

“If there was a new pandemic threat this year, next year or the year after at least, we will be largely in the same place…maybe worse, given the fiscal space restricted from many, if not most, countries right now.”

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Wednesday’s report comes ahead of next week’s World Health Assembly in Geneva, the WHO’s annual decision-making forum, which is expected to address some of the issues raised.

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While the body welcomed some advances, including the creation of a separate global fund for health security within the World Bank, it warned that global interest was waning and the years it would take to implement place other instruments – including a potential pandemic treaty, an international agreement to improve preparedness – were too long.

The panel called for a high-level meeting at the United Nations General Assembly and an independent council on health threats led by heads of state to galvanize action.

“Only political leadership at the highest level has the legitimacy to bring multiple sectors together in this way,” Sirleaf said in a statement.