“Too many governments have disrespected basic standards of institutional rationality and transparency, too many people – often influenced by misinformation – have disrespected and protested basic public health precautions, and major world powers have failed to have failed to collaborate in controlling the pandemic,” the commissioners wrote.
The Lancet Commission report is addressed to UN member states, UN agencies and others, including the G20 and G7.
The commission clarified that it is not “an investigative group, nor a body of biomedical specialists”, but it focused on science-based policy, global cooperation and international finance in order to propose “guidelines to strengthen the multilateral system to deal with global emergencies and to achieve sustainable development. »
Some of the failures identified by the commission include a lack of timely notification of the initial outbreak, “expensive delays” in recognizing the airborne spread of the virus, a lack of coordination between countries around suppression strategies, the inability of governments to review the evidence and adopt the best policies for the control and management of the pandemic, lack of funding for low and middle income countries, inability to equitably distribute essential commodities, lack of data, poor enforcement of biosafety regulations as the pandemic approaches, failure to address misinformation, and lack of safety nets for vulnerable populations.
“The overriding lesson of the COVID-19 pandemic is the need for national preparedness as well as global cooperation and concerted action,” the commission writes. “Most countries do not have meaningful pandemic preparedness plans. »
The commission also says the WHO “acted too carefully and too slowly on several important issues,” including warning of human transmissibility of the virus and declaring a public health emergency of international concern. Many governments have also been too slow to recognize the significance of the outbreak, as it became known that urgent action was needed in response.
In addition to organizational and governmental failures, there was public opposition to public health and social measures that “seriously impeded” epidemic control.
The commission highlighted “some important positives” in the responses to Covid-19, the most important being the development of vaccines.
The report makes several recommendations, including global coordination of efforts to end the pandemic with countries maintaining a vaccine-plus strategy; an intensification of the search for the origins of the virus by the WHO, governments and the scientific community; a general strengthening of WHO; two pathways to prevent future emerging infectious diseases that aim to prevent natural spillovers and research-related spillovers; and strengthening national health systems.
The Lancet Covid-19 Commission, led by Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs of Columbia University, was created in mid-2020 and has 28 expert members in areas such as public policy, international cooperation, the epidemiology and vaccinology. The commissioners oversaw 12 working groups that met regularly throughout the pandemic and included more than 170 experts.
A working group, which looked into the origins and early spread of the pandemic, has been abolished. The commission said it made the decision “in the interest of ensuring the transparency and objectivity of the Lancet COVID-19 Commission report”.
The new report states that “the three hypotheses associated with the research are still plausible: infection in the field, infection by a natural virus in the laboratory and infection by a virus manipulated in the laboratory. No independent, transparent, and scientific investigation has been conducted regarding the bioengineering of SARS-like viruses that was underway prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. »