World wasn't prepared for any pandemic, even COVID - Helen Clark

Lloyd Burr 24/11/2021

LISTEN: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for more funding to bolster pandemic preparedness.

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark is the Co-Chair of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness.

Essentially, she was told to look at how the WHO and governments around the world had responded to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Initially, when the coronavirus outbreak began to spread in early 2020, the response from governments was poor.

"The world just wasn't prepared for any pandemic," Clark told Lloyd Burr Live.

Panic only started to unfold in March 2020, as Italy showed devastating consequences from the disease spreading.

"It's just kept gaining traction ever since."

Clark says the world has experienced "scares" of potential global outbreaks over the years, but we haven't seen a pandemic like this since 1918.

"The world had lost the collective memory of how bad this could get," she said.

"We dodged a bullet with SARS in 2003, ebola would have been devastating if it had got away but it was pretty much contained to the three West African countries."

Clark's panel has suggested the WHO "absolutely needs" new legal powers.

"The WHO has no right to demand immediate access to the site of an outbreak to see what on earth's going on."

She says the World Health Organisation also has no legal power to publish the information it has access to, without permission from the country concerned.

"It is really constrained in behaving on the front foot in what we call a precautionary way because the international health regulations more or less require it to dot every I and cross every T," Clark told Magic Talk.

Meanwhile, the panel says there are enough vaccines to cover wealthy and poor countries and boosters, but it hasn’t been coordinated, and that rich countries are hoarding them.

It says the world’s response to the pandemic has been uneven and fragmented - with low vaccination rates for low-income countries, while healthy and wealthy countries are getting boosters.

Listen to the full interview with Helen Clark above.

Magic Talk | Lloyd Burr Live, weekdays from 4pm

Missed an interview on Magic Talk? Subscribe to the Daily Dialogue now.