Africa: The World Wasn't Ready for COVID-19 - We Need to Fix Our Broken Systems


We had close calls with SARS in 2003 and MERS in 2012, yet we find ourselves ill-prepared for Covid-19. Current measures for dealing with pandemics are woefully lacking.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that a danger in one part of the planet poses a global threat. The disease has caused enormous damage in terms of lives lost, economic impact and human development; it has also revealed countries' inadequate response strategies, identified key weaknesses in global health security systems and shown examples of poor leadership.

When faced with such a threat to our collective health security, the priority is to set up early detection systems to track the spread of virus and identify new strains early enough in order to mount an effective response. We had close calls with the SARS virus in 2003 and MERS in 2012, yet we find ourselves ill-prepared for Covid-19.

SARS did lead to the establishment of several global measures that included European Union funding to establish labs to sequence mystery respiratory viruses, and it prompted the Chinese to set up similar labs -- which later identified Covid-19 in Wuhan.

The Ebola crisis also taught us some painful lessons about lapses in surveillance systems. It did,...

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