G20 urged to launch a ‘global deal’ to prevent catastrophic costs of future pandemics

COVID-19 will likely be a forerunner of future catastrophic pandemics, unless significant new investments and reforms are urgently made to bolster global and national capacities for pandemic preparedness and rapid response.

These were some of the main messages of the report, A Global Deal for Our Pandemic Age, presented by the G20 High Level Independent Panel on Financing the Global Commons for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (HLIP) at the third G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting in Venice on 9 July.

The Panel called on the G20 and international community to move swiftly to close current shortfalls in the international COVID-19 response. The world cannot wait, continued the report, for COVID-19 to be over to make the global investments and reforms that are critically needed to head off future pandemics, which threaten to be more frequent and increasingly dangerous.

The Panel also called for a public funding increase in international financing of at least $75 billion over the next five years, or $15 billion per year, to plug major gaps in pandemic prevention and preparedness ― at least doubling current spending levels.

The four pressing preparedness gaps identified by the Panel were: infectious disease surveillance; resilience of national health systems; global capacity to supply and deliver vaccines and other medical countermeasures; and global governance. It suggested that future pandemic risks can be substantially reduced if these gaps are addressed.

The Panel also highlighted that the needed investments are larger than those the international community has been willing to spend in the past, but negligible compared to costs of another major pandemic. The costs to government budgets alone from pandemics are up to 700 times larger than the annual additional international investments proposed, it said.

The additional $15 billion per year of international financing in global public goods for prevention and preparedness includes a key proposal to establish a new $10 billion annual ‘Global Health Threats Fund’ plus $5 billion a year to increase funding of existing international institutions, including strengthening of the World Health Organization (WHO) and creating a dedicated pandemic preparedness concessional financing windows in the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) and Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs).

The Panel also called for the creation of a new Global Health Threats Board, which would bring together Finance and Health Ministers and International Organizations to provide systemic financial oversight and ensure timely and effective resourcing and coordination of international efforts to mitigate pandemic threats.

The Panel stressed the imperative for all nations to prioritize and sustain domestic investments in pandemic preparedness over time. Low- and middle-income countries would need to add about 1% of GDP to public spending on health over the next five years, complemented by increased support from multilateral and bilateral financing partners.

The G20 will be considering the Panel’s report and recommendations in detail in the lead up to the Joint Finance and Health Ministers meeting in October.

Download the full report “A Global Deal for Our Pandemic Age” here.

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