, , , , , ,

  (Twelve-minute read)  As much as one has to admire the initiative and courage of Tom. The generosity of the public and the power of social media in raising millions for the NHS he high lights what is wrong with a Government, that put the economy before its people’s needs. One key question to ask ourselves about the current pandemic of COVID-19 is: Why are we so unprepared? After all, this is far from the first pandemic and three to four of them were in the last six decades. Anyone with even a modicum of historical knowledge is aware of the infamous Black Death. (Between 1346 and 1353.) Even though none of us were alive then in that pandemic, Eurasia suffered between 75 and 200 million deaths, at a time when the entire global population was less than 500 million. Just over 100 years ago, the so-called Spanish flu killed some 100 million people in the closing months of the First World War and into 1919. The pandemic killed about five times the number of people killed in that war. Why humans kept making the same mistakes over and over again over a period of many centuries. Essentially, it can be blamed on our arrogance — a psychological condition that affects most of us most of the time — drove people to believe that they had nothing to learn from the past.   Today, we are smarter. We have learned more. We are more aware of the traps that lead to disaster. But we really are not. We say that we learn the lessons of history, but we do not.  Did anyone really believe that no global pandemics were ever again going to wreak havoc on human life? We now spend hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, on detecting space objects that might crash into the Earth, potentially causing many deaths, and maybe even leading to extinction. In the last 10 years, we have started to take this prospect very seriously. And it is good that we do. But aside from small numbers of immunologists working in different countries on different vaccines, how much effort was put into deflecting a new pandemic? Or preparing governments or people for how to cope with one? Not much, overall. We now know that a vaccine was in the works years ago, but that work on it was halted because no money was available to fund the research. Will we learn from this? The major lesson is that we will not unless we take these lessons to heart. We will have more Troys, Vietnams, Afghanistan’s and COVID-19s, unless we really, truly, smarten up. It is only a matter of time before we face a deadlier and more contagious pathogen. We also face the specter of novel and mutated pathogens that could spread and kill faster than diseases we have seen before. With the advent of genome-editing technologies, bioterrorists could artificially engineer new plagues. We can start by learning four lessons from the gaps exposed by the Ebola and Zika pandemics and now this COVID 19.  The most effective way to stop pandemics is with vaccines. Therefore the world must come together to develop preemptively vaccines for diseases predicted to cause outbreaks in the near future. What’s needed are point-of-care diagnostics that, like pregnancy tests, can be used by frontline responders or patients themselves to detect infection right away, where they live. We need to help developing countries establish health systems that can provide routine care and, when needed, coordinate with international responders to contain new outbreaks. Local health systems could be established for half the price of battling future pandemics. They would be essential for knowing when an outbreak is taking root and establishing trust. International actors are essential but cannot parachute into countries and navigate local dynamics quickly enough to contain outbreaks. Investing in our ability to prevent and contain pandemics through revitalized national and international institutions should be our shared goal. We need stronger global coordination. The responsibility for controlling pandemics is fragmented, spread across too many players with no unifying authority.  So Mr. Tom you have inspired me to suggest this. If we are going to keep NATO that has reinvented itself and built a new headquarter at a cost of  €1billion let it be the global coordinator to fight future Pandemics.  What better enemy could it have. Pandemics are an existential threat on par with climate change and nuclear conflict. We are at a critical crossroads, where we must either take the steps needed to prepare for this threat or become even more vulnerable. It is only a matter of time before we are hit by a deadlier, more contagious pandemic. Will we be ready? WHO, which is taking a battering from prevailing political headwinds in the United States, should continue to anchor global action.  All human comments appreciated. All like clicks and abuse chucked in the bin