Over 17 million deaths: this is the price we have had to pay (and we are still paying) for the mismanagement of the covid pandemic: it is a harsh sentence issued by the Lancet, which published a I accuse against governments and organizations, guilty – according to him – of having reacted too slowly, too disorganized and too unprepared to the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The report, drawn up by 28 world experts, reviews what went wrong in this two-year pandemic and tries to understand what can be improved in view of future pandemics.
Origins (still) uncertain. Although recent studies seemed to have put an end to the dilemma, the Lancet First of all, he is keen to underline that the origin of the SARS-Cov-2 coronavirus is not yet clear: species jump from the Wuhan market or laboratory error? Both hypotheses are still on the table, and it is important that doubts are resolved as soon as possible with further scientific research.
The responsibilities of the WHO … The first target of criticism of the Lancet is the World Health Organization (WHO), accused of having acted “too cautiously and too slowly” in several important issues, such as alerting citizens to the contagiousness of the virus, declaring the covid a public health emergency of international significance or support the use of masks by recognizing the airborne spread of the coronavirus.
… and governments. Governments are also accused by experts of having acted too slowly, with inadequate policies to contain the pandemic and social measures that are insufficient to protect the weakest. The distrust of citizens in institutions, the inability of governments to provide clear and unambiguous advice and the dissemination of false news and hoaxes on social media have also hampered the management of the health emergency.
Advice for the future. After making it clear what has gone wrong in the past couple of years, the Lancet takes stock of what to do to overcome the current health emergency and prepare for the next. First of all, he stresses, “coordinated global efforts are needed to end the covid pandemic fairly and quickly.”
The key word for the future is cooperation: WHO’s role must be strengthened and the organization must receive the support of the global community. To avoid future species leaps (o spillover) natural animals it is necessary to regulate the trade in domestic and wild animals; to avoid laboratory errors, WHO must strengthen biosecurity controls in laboratories where dangerous pathogens are studied.
Finally, it is essential that every country has a valid prepandemic plan (at the moment it seems that this is not the case) and that it reinforces existing health systems.
The WHO response. The report made WHO turn up their noses, which published a response statement in which it emphasized that the report of the Lancet contains “several key omissions and misinterpretations”. For its part, the organization claims to have acted to the best of its ability, updating strategies based on evolution and new discoveries about the virus and indicating the best way forward for countries.