Cash to combat pandemics needed

4/7/2022 10:34:58 AM
 Medical workers in protective suits tend to coronavirus patients at the intensive care unit of a hospital in Wuhan, China. China Daily via Reuters
Four global organizations request 15 billion grants to bolster health systems

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and three other global organizations on Tuesday called for the allocation of $15 billion (USD) in grants in 2022 to fight pandemics and boost health systems both domestically and globally.

The IMF, in partnership with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the Global Fund, and Wellcome Trust, published "A Global Strategy to Manage the Long-term Risks of COVID-19" working paper, which calls for a more "comprehensive" and "integrated" pandemic response from the international community.

"It is now evident that COVID-19 will be with us for the long term, and there are very different scenarios for how it could evolve, from a mild endemic scenario to a dangerous variant scenario," the working paper claims.

"This realization calls for a new strategy that manages both the uncertainty and the long-term risks of COVID-19," it added.

"Overall, health security is economic security," said IMF's First Deputy Managing Director Gita Gopinath, who previously served as the Fund's chief economist. "The international community should recognize that its pandemic financing addresses a systemic risk to the global economy."

Gopinath noted that the IMF's January World Economic Outlook Update estimated the combined losses from the pandemic to reach $13.8 trillion from 2020 to 2024. "The cost of inaction - for all of us - is very high. We need to act now."

Echoing her remarks, Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome Trust and a celebrated medical researcher, said "now is not the time to ease up," mentioning that the virus' next move is "anything but certain" and the risk of new variants remains high.

"We need to set our sights on developing next generation vaccines that can block transmission and won't require endless boosters, strengthening genomic surveillance globally so we can identify and track new variants and improving global access to vaccines, treatments and tests," Farrar said. "Leaving any countries unprotected puts us all at risk."

The newly released working paper laid out four policy implications:

Achieve equitable access beyond vaccines to encompass a comprehensive toolkit; monitor the evolving virus and dynamically upgrade the toolkit; transition from the acute response to a sustainable strategy toward COVID-19, balanced and integrated with other health and social priorities; adopt a unified risk-mitigation approach to future infectious disease threats beyond COVID-19.

Accordingly, the international community should allocate additional funding to fight pandemics and strengthen health systems both domestically and overseas, the paper argued. This will require about $15 billion in grants in 2022 and $10 billion annually after that.

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