Covid-19: The world must work together | HT Editorial – Editorials
The video conference between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the other leaders of the South Asian Regional Cooperation Association (Saarc) to discuss a common response to the new coronavirus is a positive change from the global pattern of lifting drawbridges. South Asia has reason to work together. The region is led by China and Iran, two key transmission centers, and its borders are so porous that they do not exist.
Epidemiologists have predicted for years that pandemic influenza would be the most likely source of a global health crisis. These studies also called for an international response, arguing that unsystematic national policies would be ineffective. Despite this, all governments have responded with panic isolation, often fueled by political considerations. Hopefully, Saarc’s effort will mark a reversal, currently symbolic, of this trend. Previous outbreaks, such as Sars and Ebola, inspired international civil society initiatives. This has had limited success. But they have only received half interest from governments. Even the World Health Organization has struggled with financing.
When the current crisis ends, the world needs to find a new collective mindset regarding pandemics. A multilateral health surveillance and prevention system should be the first priority. Second, consideration should be given to creating an international public-private partnership focused on vaccine development and coordinating the production of emergency medical supplies. Third, protocols should be developed on the cross-border movement of people, goods, and the like during a pandemic. This response has been marked by arbitrariness. Finally, governments must be persuaded about the need to be fully transparent about health problems. India, given its own experience in health care, its pharmaceutical capabilities, and its reasonable track record in managing disease-related emergencies, can play a leading role in this regard. Saarc is a proper first step.