A report released on Sept. 14 by the Lancet Commission has highlighted mass failures by governments in their response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, and called the death toll from the virus "a profound tragedy and a massive global failure at multiple levels."
The Lancet COVID-19 Commission was established in July 2020 and is made up of 28 commissioners who are "leading experts" in areas such as public policy, epidemiology and vaccinology, economics and financial systems, and mental health.
The lengthy report cites multiple failures with regards to international cooperation in the response to the pandemic, including a lack of timely notification during the initial outbreak of the virus, "costly delays" in acknowledging and implementing appropriate measures across the globe regarding the airborne exposure pathway of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and delays in implementing measures to slow the spread of the virus.
The report also notes the lack of coordination among countries with regards to stemming the spread of the virus, and the failure of governments to adopt best practices to control the pandemic, including managing the economic and social spillover.
Other failures the Lancet Commission cites include a lack of funding for low-income and middle-income countries and a lack of adequate global supplies of protective gear, vaccines, and diagnostic equipment.
It also cites political leaders' failure to "combat systematic disinformation" regarding the virus.
'Too Many Governments Have Failed'"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 states.
The commission further states the World Health Organization (WHO) "acted too cautiously and too slowly on several important matters" related to the virus, including its failure to declare a public health emergency of international concern in a timely manner; to warn about the human transmissibility of the virus; and to endorse public use of protective gear, such as face coverings.
However, the commission noted that it is not "an investigative group, nor a body of biomedical specialists in key fields such as virology, vaccine development, and medicine," and is instead focused on "science-based policy, global cooperation, and international finance."
Its report aims to "propose guideposts for strengthening the multilateral system to address global emergencies and to achieve sustainable development," it said.
The Lancet Commission made a number of recommendations for ending the pandemic and preparing for future potential pandemics, while noting that governments need to remain vigilant for new variants of COVID-19 as well as "waning protection from vaccinations and previous infections."
Recommendations include utilizing "strong monitoring and surveillance systems" throughout the world to establish the risk of a new wave of the virus, intensifying efforts to ensure high levels of immunization coverage, particularly in low-income countries, rehabilitation and social support for people with so-called long COVID, and "complementary public health and social measures such as the use of face masks, the promotion of safe workplaces, and economic and social support for self-isolation."
Further Research Needed to Find COVID-19 OriginsThe report also calls on China, the United States, the EU, India, the Russian Federation, and other major regional and global powers to "put aside their geopolitical rivalries to work together to end this pandemic" and to prepare for the next global crisis.
The commission also said it supports a push for a deeper search into the origins of SARS-CoV-2, including a "possible natural spillover or a possible research-related spillover."
"WHO echoes the Commission’s conclusions that COVID-19 exposed major global challenges, such as chronic underfinancing of the UN, rigid intellectual property regimes, a lack of sustainable financing for low- and middle-income countries, and 'excessive nationalism,' which drove vaccine inequity," the statement read.
However, the health body stated that it had repeatedly warned of the potential of asymptomatic human-to-human transmission and had done its best to provide masks early on to those who were deemed high risk.
It also pointed to early recommendations regarding travel measures to be put in place and pointed to "guidance and enhanced surveillance protocols" it issued early in the pandemic to "identify contacts among people prior to the development of symptoms," among other responses.
The health body noted that while the pandemic is not yet over, "the end is in sight" while vowing to lay a "stronger foundation for the future."