An unregulated world can be blamed for its spread, but collective action based on evidence could be the best way to stop it
In 2008, the world successfully pulled together – with Britain playing a catalytic role – when faced with the threat of financial collapse. In 2020, confronted with the threat of a global pandemic, it is every country for itself. There has been no international health summit of national leaders supported by the World Health Organization – although the World Bank has announced a $12bn package of assistance. There are frantic national efforts to create a vaccine and no effort to ensure that, when found and produced in sufficient scale, it will go to the places of need – in all our interests. Britain, with no vaccine production capacity of its own, is especially vulnerable.
Instead there are national bans on exports of key products such as medical supplies, with countries falling back on their own analysis of the crisis amid localised shortages and haphazard, primitive approaches to containment. The standards on isolation, quarantine and contact tracing – medieval approaches to disease control in any case, according to Prof Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine – vary hugely between countries.
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