Ending The Coronavirus Pandemic — What Will It Take?
A week ago, New York’s Governor Cuomo gave his final daily press briefing on the state’s coronavirus response. For many of us who were in New York during the peak of the virus curve, this seemed at least like the end of one chapter. A battle seemed to have been won, a line drawn, and our city would now begin, phase by phase, to return to some semblance of normalcy.
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As someone who contracted coronavirus in late March, during what Governor Cuomo has called the climb up the mountain, I remember lying in bed, drenched in sweat, as ambulance sirens never seemed to cease outside our home. While I’ve long since recovered from coronavirus, over the past few weeks I, like many, couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief that perhaps the worst was behind us.
But therein lies the danger. As some countries begin to reopen and as some states like New York move toward recovery, we run the deadly risk of forgetting that we are still in the middle of a pandemic. This is far from over. If anything, this is just the end of the beginning.
As the virus resurges in countries like Germany, others – particularly in Latin America – are seeing cases grow exponentially. The U.S. is not immune to this trend. Yesterday, less than a week after Governor Cuomo’s final daily briefing, Johns Hopkins University confirmed more than 40,400 new cases of coronavirus in the United States, the highest daily record of cases since the pandemic first began earlier this year. Meanwhile, emerging markets such as India, South Africa and Pakistan see cases continue to climb as well.
The Road Ahead
There is ultimately only one way to end this pandemic: by producing and distributing a vaccine for everyone, everywhere who needs it, with priority being given in the first instance to frontline health workers and the most vulnerable, such as those aged 65 and over.
Of course, until a vaccine is developed, we will be reliant on tests and new treatments. All countries need access to these tools and medicines. They should not be hoarded by wealthy countries to the exclusion of poorer economies as has too often happened in the past. As well as such hoarding not being fair and equitable, the global economy will not be able to recover if only half the world has access. The speed with which the virus continues to spread unabated is proof that no one is truly safe until everyone is safe.
To this end, earlier today, the world released a fast, fair and effective plan aimed at bringing the world together to address the shared objective of ending the pandemic for everyone. Seven organizations – collectively known as Access to Coronavirus Tools (ACT) Accelerator – have created a global plan to develop and equitably distribute tests, treatments, and vaccines. This plan will ultimately cost tens of billions of dollars, a gap that is required to be funded in the next 12 months to ensure that these tools are developed and distributed to those in need, and that no country is left behind. The total cost of the work planned by the ACT-Accelerator’s partners is less than what the global economy is losing each month.
Everyone Must Play A Part
Talk of “tens of billions” sounds daunting. But, this pandemic has dramatically illustrated how vulnerable the economy is to global health shocks. The current phase of the virus has incurred trillions of dollars in lost revenue around the world. And each week, the global economy loses $59 billion due to this pandemic, a great deal more than the $31.3 billion estimated to be needed in total to fund the new ACT Accelerator plan. It is noteworthy that $31 billion is also a fraction of the amount governments have allocated in many of their recent economic stimulus packages.
Governments and multilateral institutions shouldn’t shoulder this burden alone of course. The private sector and philanthropists also have a role to play and notably, they share an acute interest in ending this pandemic so economies can begin to recover.
In that respect, tomorrow’s Global Goal Unite: For Our Future Summit presents a key opportunity for governments, businesses, and philanthropy to come together to contribute an initial down payment towards the billions required to equitably distribute Covid-19 tests, treatments and vaccines. Taking place under the patronage of President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the Summit aims to catalyze initial commitments towards the ACT Accelerator Plan as well as address the pandemic’s impact on marginalized communities more broadly.
Much has been made of the lessons from coronavirus in how the initial response could have been much better handled.
But crises are equally remembered for how they are resolved, not just how they begin.
When the history books are written on this crisis in years to come, let them tell a story of how the world came together to solve a common problem. It will be tough, and there are long months ahead, but just maybe tomorrow might serve as a key moment in this story when the world came together in a spirit of solidarity to turn the page on this deadly virus. A moment when the world spoke with one voice with a clear message: that no one – regardless of where you are born or the color of your skin – should be left behind.