COVID-19: Lessons Not Always Learned (briefing note n°13 2021)

Grunewald, F.
Publication language
Date published
15 Feb 2021
Research, reports and studies
COVID-19, Epidemics & pandemics, Health, Response and recovery, Global Forum
Groupe URD

Once the pandemic was declared, Groupe URD rapidly began work on producing a series of key messages , setting up at the same time a Covid-19 “observatory”. This thirteenth note is intended to sum up the situation thus far, and look ahead, as indicated in the three subheadings set out above.

Over the past 20 years, the international community has learnt a good deal about the management of SRAS-type infections. It has ten years of Ebola experience and has been confronted by multiple cholera epidemics. Such health emergencies destabilise society and cause economic breakdown. So what can be done in terms of managing the health, human, social and economic consequences? How may public health systems be improved so that they become more alert, prepared and capable of managing crises which put them under intense pressure? The realisation of the ease with which epidemics cross borders and continents has led to international cooperation but also to new forms of competition.

Managing epidemics and pandemics requires political decision-making, some of it difficult, often painful at many levels, with part of the difficulty being the general uncertainty and the many unknowns of a health emergency. Each country’s individual controversies and the controversies between one country and another represent both an opportunity - this is a chance for a citizens’ debate – and a danger. We have seen the power controversies have to promote alternative truths and conspiracy theories and to put obstructions in the way of measures required as a response to the emergency. In this context, we have also seen and noted the importance of honest, unpretentious discourse. We have seen the value of forward planning, of political courage. These are integral parts of the social dialogue. Without them, even the best of vaccines will not protect us.

Grunewald, F.