Leadership Failures at Every Turn

Police arrive at a public housing building as residents are evacuated to a quarantine center. Hong Kong, March 14, 2020. Image: Anthony Kwan/Getty
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Police arrive at a public housing building as residents are evacuated to a quarantine center. Hong Kong, March 14, 2020. Image: Anthony Kwan/Getty

“The world was not as prepared as it should have been, and it must do better,” concludes a WHO panel reviewing the pandemic response in an interim report published yesterday.
 
The panel, led by former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, the AP reports—found collective leadership failures at every turn: 

  • China and public health organizations were faulted for their the slow response that allowed the pandemic to take root

  • “... only a minority of countries took full advantage of the information available to them to respond,” the authors write.

  • WHO waited nearly a week after its January 22 emergency committee to declare a global public health emergency and avoided the word “pandemic” until March 11–-“weeks after it set off outbreaks on multiple continents and met the WHO’s definition for a flu pandemic.”


While damning (“those who were responsible for protecting and leading failed to do either”), the interim report offers an “early blueprint for reform” as well, according to the New York Times’s take.

Future Targets: The “slow, cumbersome and indecisive” pandemic alert system and the WHO’s lack of authority and funding. Those points will likely be addressed in the panel’s final report.

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