Friday, October 30, 2020

Preventing Pandemics

  The current pandemic might cost the world economy $16 trillion (£12.2 trillion) by next summer but it is much harder to calculate the human cost.

document has been drawn up by an organisation established by the UN, which is known as IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) warns that, without a co-ordinated global plan, more will die from future pandemics more dangerous than Covid-19. The document is tasked with protecting the natural world on behalf of people.  More than five new diseases are emerging every year. 70% of new diseases like ebola and zika, and almost all known pathogens with pandemic potential, such as influenza, HIV, and the novel coronavirus, have their origins in animals.

These diseases “spill over“ - jump from one species to another - during contact between wildlife, livestock, and people. The report says mammals and birds are estimated to harbour more than a million undiscovered viruses. 

The document says: “Pandemics are becoming more frequent. Without preventive strategies, they will emerge more often, spread more rapidly, kill more people, and affect the global economy with more devastating impact.”

Preventive measures - such as cracking down on the wildlife trade - would cost between $22bn and $31bn annually. It's a large sum, but a fraction of the economic cost of coping with a pandemic like Covid-19. The drivers of pandemics, including agricultural expansion and intensification, the wildlife trade, wildlife consumption and global travel. The recommendation to lower the consumption of farmed and wild meat – especially from emerging disease hotspots

It criticises current strategies which rely on responding to diseases with new vaccines after they’ve emerged.

The authors say: “Covid-19 demonstrates this is a slow and uncertain path, as the human costs are mounting in lives lost, sickness endured, economic collapse, and lost livelihoods.”

It recommends:

  • setting up an expert pandemic prevention panel like the world’s climate change panel;
  • an international accord to build preparedness, enhance prevention, and control outbreaks;
  • a common approach on assessing major land-use projects that might expose humans to animal viruses.

Lee Hannah, from the green group Conservation International, told BBC News: "The challenge isn't what to do, we know what to do - reduce deforestation and re-establish healthy relationships between people and forests. The question is whether there is the political will to invest $10bn or more each year globally, and then sustain that investment to avoid trillions of dollars in damages and untold tolls in loss of life and disruption."

The recommendation to lower the consumption of farmed and wild meat – especially from emerging disease hotspots - may face resistance from nations such as Brazil. Ranching and the production of animal feed contribute significantly to the South American country's economy.

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