Damning Lancet Commission report criticises WHO and world leaders' response to Covid pandemic

The report said governments around the world were too slow to act on the threat posed by the virus. Credit: PA

Leading medical journal The Lancet has published a damning report criticising the global response to the Covid pandemic.

The Lancet Commission's final report on the handling of the pandemic heaps criticism on both the world's governments' responses, and the reaction time of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Its report also sets out goals to avoid future catastrophes.

The report estimated a "staggering death toll" of 17.2 million worldwide, and condemned the "profound tragedy and a massive global failure at multiple levels."

Data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE) records more than 7.3 million reported Covid death. However, it estimates that the true death toll stands at more than 18 million.

The IMHE takes into account unreported deaths using data from a variety of sources, and takes into account that some region's reported numbers are subject to frequent revision.

Protests outside Downing Street about the blocking of patents and the speed of global vaccination in October 2021 Credit: PA

Key Findings of the Lancet Commission's report

The Lancet Commission's report also criticises both a lack of coordination and willingness to share vaccine knowledge, finance, and technology.

In its fourth and final statement on Covid, the Commission focussed on scientific policy, global cooperation, and recommendations to avoid future catastrophes rather than health impacts.

Its report said governments "failed to adhere to basic norms of institutional rationality and transparency."

The report refers numerous times to "costly delays" and that “most countries lack meaningful pandemic preparedness plans.”

A slow start in recognising Covid's airborne transmission, distributing protective equipment, and an over-reliance on "heavily burdened groups" such as key workers were also scrutinised.

A nurse puts on PPE on a ward for Covid patients at King’s College Hospital, London Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

The report also highlighted disparity in the help made available for low-income and middle-income countries, with a lack of notification of the initial outbreak in appropriate time.

Its author noted countries with experience of dealing with SARS outbreaks, such as South Korea, fared better initially because of that experience.

The reports added that in some countries mistrust of the government, and some groups' opposition to health measures like mask-wearing and vaccination, hindered efforts.

On a wider scale, the Commission predicted that global sustainable development goals will be delayed as a direct result of Covid, as will the aims of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Criticism of the World Health Organization

The report also criticised the WHO for a slow reaction at a critical time to stop the spread of the virus early in 2020.

It says the WHO acted too cautiously on its advice on international travel rules and advocating the use of face masks.

To help identify future infectious diseases, it asked for the WHO's ranks to be strengthened with more representation, rotation and gender balance at the top - with a budget increase also suggested.

The WHO responded to the claims saying that while it welcomes the report, it contains “several key omissions and misinterpretations” of the organisation's work.

Experts still searching for the origin of the virus

The exact origin of Covid-19 is still unknown. It's thought to either have originated from wildlife in a wet market, or a "research-related incident".

On finding the source, the report says research "requires unbiased, independent, transparent, and rigorous work by international teams".

It comes as the WHO said it believes that the end of the pandemic is “in sight”.

The WHO said weekly deaths from Covid worldwide have sunk to the the lowest level since March 2020 – the month the UK first went into lockdown.

WHO's director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “We can see the finish line, we’re in a winning position. But now is the worst time to stop running."

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