The novel coronavirus with the epicentre of the outbreak in Wuhan of China is slowly progressing to affect the entire world. It shook the mainland of China, as per the latest report as on February 28, 2020, at least 44 new coronavirus deaths, bringing to 2,788 the number of fatalities nationwide.
Coronavirus has killed more than 2,800 people and infected about 83,000 worldwide.
Though the current outbreak is nowhere near the scale of the situation, described to leaders by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the Dubai summit, in which as many as 100 million people could die. However, it has brought one question into sharp focus: just how prepared are we for an epidemic?
Not enough! Last October, the Nuclear Threat Initiative had released a report of the Global Health Security Index that listed out the countries best and worst prepared for an epidemic or pandemic. It was the first comprehensive evaluation of global health security capabilities in 195 countries.
As per the report, the National health security is fundamentally weak around the world; no country is entirely prepared to handle an outbreak.
It also brought another fact that the Global biological risks are growing faster than ever making it harder for any government to control. The report highlighted that the international community must work collectively to ensure all the countries are prepared to respond to such risks.
How was the report collected?
The report used public information to evaluate each country’s ability to prevent, detect and respond to health emergencies. The index examined preparation levels by concentrating on whether the nation has the proper tools in place to deal with massive outbreaks of disease, with scores ranked on a scale of 0 to 100 where 100 is the highest level of preparedness.
Which are the countries best prepared for an epidemic?
As per the report, United States is the “most prepared”, as it came first with a score of 83.5, ahead of the United Kingdom with 77.9; followed Netherland with a score of 75.6. China was further below the ranking with a score of 48.2, placing it 51st.
The notable aspect of the report was that Thailand and South Korea were the only countries outside the West that rank in the category of most prepared.
Much of Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Asia and Central and South America fall under the category of “more prepared,” with scores between 66 and 34.3. On the other hand, the majority of countries ranked “least prepared” are in Africa. North Korea (17.5), Somalia (16.6) and Equatorial Guinea (16.2) are listed in the index’s bottom three.
What has to be done?
As stated above, the overall preparedness around the world is weak, with an average score of 40.2, which rises to 51.9 for high-income countries as per the index – a situation the report describes as alarming.
So what needs to be done? According to the report, health security is a collective responsibility, which every country should try to follow/adapt.
It recommends governments commit to action to address health security risks, that every country’s health security capacity should be measured routinely and transparently. It emphasises on the fact that the international community should work together to tackle biological threats, with a focus on financing and emergency response.
As per the World Economic Forum’s Global Health Security: Epidemics Readiness Accelerator, the number of epidemics has increased over the past 30 years; making such collective action a necessity.
Such a situation is expected to intensify in the future, as globalization brings increasing trade, travel and population density. Moreover, problems such as deforestation and climate change increases, we have now entered a new era which is more prone to the risk of epidemic events.
Robust and unified preparedness is what is necessary to tackle such issues which in future is a threat to the world population.