The World Health Organization(WHO) on Wednesday urged countries to invest in getting their healthcare systems fit to fight the next pandemic rather than scrambling around in a panic when it hits.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said investing now would save lives later, as the death toll from COVID-19 surged past 250,000.
“The COVID-19 pandemic will eventually recede, but there can be no going back to business as usual,” he told a virtual briefing in Geneva.
“We cannot continue to rush to fund panic but let preparedness go by the wayside. “As we work on responding to this pandemic, we must also work harder to prepare for the next one.”
Read more: Did WHO warn the world about Coronavirus?
Tedros said the world spends around $7.5 trillion on health each year — almost 10 percent of global gross domestic product — but investing in preparation for emerging pathogens had been ignored for far too long.
He said not only was prevention better than cure, but it also proved cheaper in the long run.
“If we learn anything from COVID-19, it must be that investing in health now will save lives later,” he said. “History will judge all of us not only on whether we got through this next pandemic, but also on the lessons we learned and the actions we took once it was over.”
Risk of lockdown return
The novel coronavirus has killed at least 257,000 people and infected more than 3.6 million, according to an AFP tally.
Tedros said that while the number of cases reported from hard-hit Western Europe was declining, more were being recorded daily in Eastern Europe, Africa, southeast Asia, the eastern Mediterranean, and the Americas.
Not only is prevention better than cure, it also proves cheaper in the long run, says WHO. https://t.co/Zz06BJBRDc
— Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) May 7, 2020
WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said he was “particularly concerned” about the virus now spreading in countries that were already suffering existing humanitarian crises, such as Yemen, Syria and Haiti.
He called for the world’s most vulnerable populations to receive prioritized assistance in fighting COVID-19.
Around half of humanity is under some form of lockdown measures imposed in a bid to contain the spread of the virus.
Tedros said strong and resilient health systems were the key to a successful emergence from the social and economic restrictions without provoking the second wave of infections. The investment in healthcare systems is the key to fight the next pandemic.
“The risk of returning to lockdown remains very real if countries do not manage the transition extremely carefully, and in a phased approach,” he said.
The US criticizes WHO over its handling of coronavirus
The WHO has faced criticism, notably from US President Donald Trump, over its handling of the pandemic.
The WHO funding by the US has been banned by President Trump due to accusations that the health agency did not take necessary measures to beat the coronavirus. The US is the top-most contributor to the health watchdog in terms of funding.
The US provides $400-500 million per year to the agency. Therefore, the freezing of these huge amounts has greatly altered the performance of the WHO.
After the US announced it has banned the funding, China came to the front and provided $30 million to save WHO from faltering.
President Trump also terms the WHO as ”China-centric” for favoring the Chinese narratives over coronavirus.
Tedros said that a review of the UN health agency’s performance would be conducted on time.
For now, “we should really focus on fighting the fire and saving lives”, he said.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk