Governments and public health organizations around the world responded slowly and ineffectually to the Covid-19 outbreak, according to an interim report by a World Health Organization panel that laid bare a yearlong cascade of failures.
The report, an early blueprint for accountability, questions the faulty assumptions, ineffective planning and sluggish responses that helped fuel a pandemic that has killed more than 2 million people and infected more than 95 million.
“We have failed in our collective capacity to come together in solidarity to create a protective web of human security,” the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response wrote.
Many of the failings, such as the inability of governments to obtain protective equipment, have long been painfully clear. But the report is stark in its assessment that, time and again, those who were responsible for protecting and leading too often failed to do either.
The panel, led by Helen Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former president of Liberia, is still conducting its investigation. But an interim report, laying out the scope of its inquiry, made clear that the world needs to rethink its approach to outbreaks. The panel called the pandemic alert system “slow, cumbersome and indecisive.”
Investigators said they did not understand why a World Health Organization’s committee waited until Jan. 30 to declare an international health emergency. But even when the world health body did send up clear warning signals, the report noted, “In far too many countries, this signal was ignored.”
The report also faulted public health leaders for responding so slowly to early evidence that people without symptoms could spread the new coronavirus. Instead, leading health agencies, including the World Health Organization, provided contradictory and sometimes misleading advice, a New York Times investigation previously found.
The report was scheduled to be released Tuesday. Agence France-Presse reported details of the report on Monday evening. A copy was obtained by The Times.
As the total number of U.S. coronavirus cases surpassed 24 million on Monday, Los Angeles County, one of the hardest-hit areas, may face even more dire weeks ahead. Deaths in the county have continued to climb as the national death toll nears 400,000.
Hospitals have run out of room in intensive care units, though new cases and hospitalizations appear to be leveling off in…