Noting an estimated 17.2 million COVID-19 deaths worldwide through May 31, the commission said, “This staggering death toll 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.”
Published yesterday in The Lancet, the report is aimed at United Nations (UN) member states and agencies and intergovernmental groups such as the G20 and G7. The commission included 28 experts from around the world.
It details national negligence in prevention, rationality, public health practices, and international cooperation, as well as “excessive nationalism” that led to unequal access to resources such as personal protective equipment (PPE), vaccines, and treatments. The report also acknowledges that many members of the public openly flouted government efforts to control the pandemic.
What went wrong
Specifically, the report details 10 failures:
- A lack of timely notification of the initial outbreak of COVID-19
- Delays in acknowledging that SARS-CoV-2 spreads by aerosols and to implement appropriate public health mitigation measures at national and international levels
- An absence of coordination among countries to suppress viral transmission
- Government failures to examine evidence and adopt best practices for controlling the pandemic and managing economic and social spillovers from other countries
- A lack of global funding for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)
- A failure to ensure adequate supplies and equitable distribution of key resources such as PPE, diagnostic tests, drugs, medical devices, and vaccines—particularly for LMICs
- A dearth of timely, accurate, systematic data on infections, deaths, viral variants, health system responses, and indirect health consequences
- Poor enforcement of appropriate levels of biosafety regulations leading up to the pandemic, raising the possibility of a lab leak
- A failure to combat systematic disinformation
- The lack of global and national safety nets to protect vulnerable populations
The report proposes the five pillars of fighting infectious diseases, including prevention strategies such as vaccination, containment, health services, equity, and global innovation and diffusion. But the underpinning of success, the commission proposed, is “prosociality,” or the reorientation of governments, regulators, and institutions toward society as a whole.