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A Pandemic Strategy as Global as COVID-19

As the COVID19 outbreak spreads, governments are understandably working to protect their own populations first, including by closing their borders and imposing quarantines and lockdowns. But, in doing so, they are often failing to see the bigger picture – with potentially dire consequences.

LONDON – The COVID-19 coronavirus is disrupting practically every aspect of life all over the world. Naturally, governments are working to protect their own populations first, including by closing their borders and imposing quarantines and lockdowns. But, in doing so, they are often failing to see the bigger picture. That critical error of judgment, if not corrected, will come back to haunt us all.

The suffering COVID-19 leaves in its wake – from death, damaged immune systems, and weakened economies – will be most serious for those are least capable of defending themselves, in our local communities and globally. Yet this wave of infections is likely to be just the first. As COVID-19 reaches countries with fragile institutions and weak health systems, huge numbers of people could die in the short term, including many of the millions of vulnerable people living in unruly and under-resourced refugee camps. Moreover, the virus could become endemic.

According to the Wellcome Trust’s Jeremy Farrar, Wuhan, China – where the virus first emerged, but deaths and new infections are now tapering off – is in week 18-20 of a 20-22-week epidemic. Northern Italy might now be in week 11-13, and the United Kingdom is in week 8-9. The vulnerable countries of Africa and Central and South America, however, are in week 1-5 – the very beginning of their epidemic cycle.

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