Stories, data, and plans: Preparing for the next pandemic
Even before the current COVID-19 outbreak, a September 2019 report compiled at the request of the United Nations Secretary-General warned that there is a “very real threat” of a pandemic that is spread airborne around the world and could wipe out almost 5 percent of the global economy.
The late Nobel Prize-winning molecular biologist Joshua Lederberg had once famously warned that viruses pose “the single biggest threat to man’s continued dominance on this planet.” In the context of the current COVID-19 epidemic, on February 15, WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, speaking at the Munich Security Conference, said that "For too long, the world has operated on a cycle of panic and neglect.”
For those of us who work on disasters and preparedness, this cycle of panic and neglect is familiar. We even have a name for it: NIMTOF, which stands for Not In My Term Of Office. Politicians are rational beings. Let’s say you are a mayor or some other elected official. You face a choice of investing in preparedness for a disaster or pandemic that may or may not happen under your watch. Or you can use that money for other pressing and more visible priorities. Unfortunately, the evidence shows that voters “reward the incumbent party for delivering disaster relief spending, but not for investing in disaster preparedness spending.” So, no prizes for guessing where the investment priorities will lie.
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