In future, pandemics will emerge more often according to experts from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IBES), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reported on its website in late October 2020. Escaping the era of pandemics is possible, but experts agree that this will require a seismic shift in approach from reaction to prevention.
COVID-19 is at least the sixth global health pandemic since the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918, and although it has its origins in microbes carried by animals, like all pandemics its emergence has been entirely driven by human activities, the experts stated in their currently released report. It is estimated that another 1.7 million currently ‘undiscovered’ viruses exist in mammals and birds – of which up to 850,000 could have the ability to infect people.
Pandemic risk can be significantly lowered by reducing the human activities that drive the loss of biodiversity, by greater conservation of protected areas, and through measures that reduce unsustainable exploitation of high biodiversity regions. This will reduce wildlife-livestock-human contact and help prevent the spillover of new diseases, according to the experts.
Relying on responses to diseases after their emergence, such as public health measures and technological solutions, in particular the rapid design and distribution of new vaccines and therapeutics, is a “slow and uncertain path”, underscoring both the widespread human suffering and the tens of billions of dollars in annual economic damage to the global economy of reacting to pandemics.
The experts estimate the cost of reducing risks to prevent pandemics to be 100 times less than the cost of responding to such pandemics, “providing strong economic incentives for transformative change.”
In their report, the experts offer a number of policy options that would help to reduce and address pandemic risk. Among these are:
Read more at UNEP website