World ,The international community should learn the necessary lessons from the COVID-19 outbreak and invest heavily to ensure that the world is suitably prepared for future pandemics, Robert Steffen, an emeritus professor of epidemiology at the University of Zurich and a frequent adviser to the World Health Organization (WHO), told Sputnik.
“What we have to learn is that future pandemics will happen. Not necessarily via the coronaviruses, but I am concerned about avian flu. We have been concerned about that for the past 30 years,” Steffen said on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF).
Steffen cited the emergence of HIV in the 1980s as an example of the rapid spread of a novel disease, saying, “we had not the faintest idea that such an infection could occur.”
According to the WHO adviser, epidemiologists are convinced that a new pandemic is likely to happen in the not-too-distant future, but politicians have, in the past, failed to heed their warnings.
“I believe that epidemiologists are very well aware that pandemics will again occur, but the problem lies rather with the politicians, because for instance, in Switzerland and many other countries, pandemic plans were developed in the 1990s, and they disappeared in draws or were put on dusty bookshelves. For instance, the plans to have stocks of face masks were suddenly diluted or these masks from the stocks, from the reserves, just disappeared, and when the pandemic came, they were not here,” Steffen remarked.
The World Health Assembly is planning a special session this coming November to discuss the drafting of a new international treaty on pandemics. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has urged the organization’s member states to back the efforts to bolster global health security.
This year’s edition of SPIEF was held from June 2-5 in the Russian city of St. Petersburg. Rossiya Segodnya was an official media partner of the event.