Appoint a new UN post to oversee international measuresby David Henig / April 2, 2020 / Leave a comment
By now it must seem that every question that can possibly be asked about coronavirus has been asked. Many times. We still don’t have all the detailed answers, but we know about the importance of testing, of making sure the NHS has enough equipment, of flattening the outbreak. We have watched the role of the UK government and others change beyond all recognition, to actively running large parts of everyday life in the country as per wartime.
But that’s all national, and this is a pandemic, affecting the world. So here are some questions we hardly ask about coronavirus. Is there enough personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacture globally to cope with a pandemic? Can we release our country from lockdown if the neighbouring country is struggling to contain the outbreak? If a treatment or vaccine is declared safe in one country will it need to go through a further testing procedure of several months to be declared safe in another? If a country restricts exports how will it pay for the imports of what it doesn’t produce? Who is coordinating the global response?
The answer to the last question unlocks the reason for lacking answers to the others. Nobody. There is no comprehensive global coordination of the fight against coronavirus. So even though this is a global outbreak, requiring similar measures and ultimately similar solutions in all countries, there is no structure in place to help achieve this.
We see fleeting instances of global cooperation. Chinese and Cuban doctors in Italy, donations of equipment from Taiwan, China and even Russia, medical researchers working together, companies coming together to make much-needed equipment, the EU striving to keep trade flowing between members. More significant may be that we are reading of what is happening in other countries and demanding best practice in our own.
But at an institutional level, none have the power to coordinate the global response to Covid-19. The World Health Organisation (WHO) provides some leadership and information dissemination on the directly health-related aspects, but this appears to be limited. There have been G20 meetings at leader and trade minister levels, leading to warm statements but no actual significant intervention. The World Trade Organisation…