A report released on Wednesday on what went wrong with the world’s (and the World Health Organization’s) response to the coronavirus disease doesn’t have any surprising revelations. The report, prepared by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR) that was set up after various WHO members demanded it, lists some suggestions on preparing for the next pandemic, including the creation of a Global Health Threats Council (its members will be heads of state, and also from civil society and the private sector), and an International Pandemic Financing Facility which will be funded by rich countries to the tune of $5-10 billion a year, and which will help countries prepare for or manage pandemics, that, while not entirely new (again), do seem like good moves. The best time to prepare for the next pandemic is soon after seeing the current one off.


The report terms February 2020 the lost month – if WHO had acted then, or if countries had, the trajectory of the pandemic is likely to have been very different from one that has, over the 17 months since January 1, 2020, caused 161 million infections and 3.34 million deaths around the world. The actual numbers of the infected and the dead are likely to be much higher. On January 14, 2020, WHO claimed, on the basis of investigations carried out by Chinese health authorities, that there was “no clear human-to-human transmission”. A week later, it changed its position, and said there was possibility of “sustained” human-to-human transmission. It delayed declaring a public health emergency till January 31, and terming the outbreak a pandemic till March 11. It wasn’t until June that the multilateral health agency would issue a proper advisory on masks (which it did not recommend till then). And while it did accept the possibility that the virus could be airborne last year, it wasn’t until earlier this year that it changed its guidelines to include this. Most worryingly, though this period, WHO has made no headway in figuring out the origin of the virus which first appeared in Wuhan