Invest now to fight next pandemic, says WHO Chief
Elvis Onchwari  |  May 7, 2020

Invest now to fight the next pandemic, said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

The World Health Organization on Wednesday urged countries to invest in getting their healthcare systems fit to fight the next pandemic rather than scrambling around in a panic when it hits.

"The COVID-19 pandemic will eventually recede, but there can be no going back to business as usual," he told a virtual briefing in Geneva.

The WHO chief said the world spends around $7.5 trillion on health each year - almost 10 percent of global gross domestic product - but investing in preparation for emerging pathogens had been ignored for far too long.

He said not only was prevention better than cure, but it also proved cheaper in the long run.

"If we learn anything from COVID-19, it must be that investing in health now will save lives later," he said.

WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said he was "particularly concerned" about the virus now spreading in countries that were already suffering existing humanitarian crises, such as Yemen, Syria, and Haiti.

Around half of humanity is under some form of lockdown measures imposed in a bid to contain the spread of the virus.

The WHO chief, Tedros said, strong and resilient health systems were the key to a successful emergence from the social and economic restrictions without provoking a second wave of infections. "The risk of returning to lockdown remains very real if countries do not manage the transition extremely carefully, and in a phased approach," he said.

For now, "we should really focus on fighting the fire and saving lives", he said.