How 57 Countries Fought COVID: Key Lessons For The Next Pandemic

So big news from the global health world, the World Health Organization has published an amazing report on how 57 different countries battled COVID-19 during the pandemic.

It looks at what worked and what didn’t and is crucial info for how we should battle COVID and other pandemics in the future.

So Which Countries Were In The Report?

All the countries shown in blue submitted an intra-action review.

An inter-action review is just a fancy way of saying they submitted a report which went into detail on what their COVID-19 response in their country. It looks at what they did, when they did it, and what their challenges were. Basically what worked and what didn’t. This sometimes look at the country as a whole, and sometimes at specific regions or areas.

This is why some countries submitted more reports than others. Out of the 57 countries taking part, the WHO collected 83 reports.

What Were The Biggest Challenges?

1. Lack of preparation:

A common challenge reported was that countries did not expect such a large a public health emergency, so they did not have enough infrastructure, human, material and financial resources or a plan for how to manage the emergency, especially at the beginning of the pandemic.

2. Stopping their healthcare system collapsing:

When COVID-19 cases surged, many countries struggled not to let their hospitals, clinics, and doctors, etc., get completely overwhelmed. Think of how difficult it was to get a hospital bed at one point during the pandemic.

3. Approving vaccines fast enough:

Countries also had to find ways to get approval for new vaccines, and then to administer vaccines at never before seen speeds.

4. Communicating reliable health information to communities:

Because of constantly evolving scientific knowledge and health guidance, and how common false news was, it became a major challenge to reliable health information to communities.

5. Community concerns and unanswered questions:

People worried about the impact of the recommended health behaviours and policies. These concerns made communicating reliable health info even harder.

What Worked During The Pandemic?

Although in theory, making a play book on fighting a pandemic after crunching the numbers sounds easy. Spoiler alert, it’s not. Turns out, figuring what billions of people should do in an emergency situation, whilst in completely different contexts, is hard.

That disclaimer aside, they did find out some interesting stuff.

1. Using and repurposing what we already had in place:

Countries used and pivoted policies, strategies, plans, standard operating procedures and human resources that already existed in their country to rapidly respond to the pandemic.

2. Expanding the use of innovative tech:

This increased efficiency of contact tracing, monitoring vaccinations and creating systems to allow information to be shared. Think of how your vaccine certificate was shared with you via SMS.

3. Public, private and everything in between working together:

Countries that could get all sectors and domestic and external resources to fight both the pandemic and fake news had an edge over COVID.

*multisectoral coordination, public–private partnerships, academic weigh-in, working with civil society and recruiting volunteers.

4. Scaling up laboratories:

Labs were very important during the pandemic as testing needed to happen quickly. This was especially true in the beginning of the pandemic. Testing was critical to support diagnosis, surveillance, contact-tracing operations, prevention of transmission and allowing things to operate.

How Can We Prepare For The Next Pandemic?

Yes, I know it’s depressing to talk about the next pandemic, but let’s be realistic. Time is long and people move around too much, there will be another one eventually. So what can we do?

1. Increase our investments in health emergency preparedness

Yes, yes, you say, but what does that actually mean? Put time and money into making sure that all the stuff we did to deal with the pandemic during the pandemic is not forgotten and lost when something else that’s new and exciting pops up.

3. Pushing the use of real-time data to drive how and what decisions are made and policies are implemented:

This is an interesting one that ties to the wave of innovative tech and information sharing that was used to combat COVID-19.

For a long time, when you did a study or tested a bunch of people, that info would live on a piece of paper for months or even years. This is because all the data from a study was collected in hard copies. Then someone would have to go through thousands of pieces of paper and transfer that info into a consolidated (all together) report and/or digitize it.

It’s a process that takes a long time and has been slowly going away. To be honest, people just don’t really like change. But the pandemic pushed more scientists to share and gather information using tech in ways they never would have before.

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