News Video | Policy | GPs | Hospitals | Medical | Mental Health | Welfare | Search


“Weak Links” Found At Every Point In Pandemic Response – Expert Reaction


The pandemic was a “preventable disaster”, says an international panel that reviewed the global COVID-19 response. It calls for immediate action to stop this pandemic, and investment to avert the next one.

“COVID-19: Make it the Last Pandemic” was produced by a panel co-chaired by Helen Clark and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The panel found the initial outbreak became a pandemic because of “gaps and failings at every critical juncture of preparedness.” It also praises the efforts of health workers and the key role that open data and open science collaboration played.

The SMC asked experts to comment on the report.

Professor David Murdoch, Clinical Microbiologist and Infectious Diseases Physician, Dean and Head of Campus, University of Otago, Christchurch, and Co-Director, One Health Aotearoa, comments:

“The awaited review on the global COVID-19 response by a panel co-chaired by Helen Clark and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was released last night as a report entitled ‘COVID-19: Make it the Last Pandemic.’

“The aim of this independent review was to assess comprehensively the international health response to COVID-19, the experiences gained and lessons learned, and to make recommendations to improve future capacities and responsiveness.

“The report pulls no punches. It highlights how the current pandemic situation was preventable; that there was a general lack of preparedness globally despite years of warnings; that responses, especially in the early stages of the pandemic, were often sluggish; and that coordinated leadership was absent. It also highlighted the underpowered nature of the World Health Organization (WHO) and how lack of planning and gaps in social protection resulted in widening inequities.

“The panel’s recommendations focused on two areas, viz. (1) immediate actions to end the pandemic and (2) actions directed at preventing a future pandemic. The latter include the establishment of a Global Health Threats Council, strengthening the authority and financing of the WHO, improved surveillance systems, and the establishment of national pandemic coordinators.

“These recommendations apply just as much to New Zealand as to the rest of the world. While we have done relatively well in our COVID-19 responsiveness compared to other countries, we need to do much better in preparing for the next pandemic. We need agile and coordinated systems, and capability within a well-connected and skilled workforce to enable rapid response to future infectious diseases threats.

“This is a welcome report. However, it must be acted upon now. We cannot wait until after the pandemic is over.

“As this report states: ‘we have been warned.'”

Conflict of interest statement: Member, COVID-19 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group, Ministry of Health; Member, Advisory Group, Vaccine Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (VAANZ); Independent Member, Clinical Trials Steering Committee, University of Oxford COVID-19 Vaccine; Member, COVID-19 Expert Advisory Network, Ministry of Health; Member, Strategic COVID-19 Public Health Advisory Group, New Zealand Government.

Professor Nigel French, Infectious Disease Epidemiologist, School of Veterinary Science, Massey University, and Co-Director, One Health Aotearoa, comments:

“It was always a matter of when, not whether, a pandemic on the scale of COVID-19 would occur. Previous events, such as the emergence and global spread of HIV/AIDS and the influenza pandemics of 1918 and 2009, provided ample warning of the potential scale and devastation of infectious diseases. As did near-misses with diseases such as SARS and Ebola that were locally-devastating, but relatively contained.

“All of these diseases crossed over from animals to people at some stage in their evolutionary history, and this is a reminder of how important it is to understand and stop the human activities that lead to the emergence of new pathogens. Preventing the initial emergence of infectious diseases with pandemic potential is a difficult task, but we do know what needs to be done on global, regional and local scales to prepare for them and reduce their impact. Previously unimaginable advances in vaccine development provide us with even greater opportunities to prevent a disaster of this magnitude happening again, provided we have coordinated, global leadership.

“This report is a welcome and far reaching reminder of what we need to do to prepare for and prevent pandemics, and we hope it is a trigger for a seismic change in how we plan for and respond to future threats.”

Conflict of interest statement: Member, COVID-19 Technical Advisory Group, Ministry of Health.


© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines


Howard Davis: Emerald Fennell's Promising Young Woman'

The Guardian needed not one, but three reviews to do justice to Fennell's unsettling approach, which indicates exactly how ambiguous and controversial its message really is. More>>

Howard Davis: Jill Trevelyan's Rita Angus

Although Angus has become one of Aotearoa’s best-loved painters, the story of her life remained little known and poorly understood before Jill Trevelyan's acclaimed and revelatory biography, which won the Non Fiction Award at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards in 2009, and has now been republished by Te Papa press. More>>

Howard Davis: The Back of the Painting

Painting conservators are the forensic pathologists of the art world. While they cannot bring their subjects back to life, they do provide fascinating insights into the precise circumstances of a painting's creation, its material authenticity, and constructive methodology. More>>

Howard Davis: Black Panthers on the Prowl

A passionate and gripping political drama from Shaka King, this is an informative and instructive tale of human frailty that centers around the charismatic Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, who was murdered at the age of twenty-one during a police raid. More>>

Howard Davis: Controlling the High Ground

Stephen Johnson's raw and angry film not only poses important questions with scrupulous authenticity, but also provides a timely reminder of the genocidal consequences of casual bigotry and xenophobia. More>>

Howard Davis: Dryzabone - Robert Conolly's The Dry

After the terrible devastation caused by last year’s bushfires, which prompted hundreds of Australians to shelter in the ocean to escape incineration and destroyed uncountable amounts of wildlife, The Dry has been released during a totally different kind of dry spell. More>>

Howard Davis: Hit the Road, Jack - Chloé Zhao's Nomadland

Nomadland is perhaps the ultimately 'road' movie as it follows a group of dispossessed and disenfranchised vagabonds who find a form of communal refuge in camp sites and trailer parks after the economic contraction of 2008. More>>



  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland