Every evening during the early days of the pandemic, people opened their windows at a set hour to applaud the heroic women and men who were putting their health on the line in the fight against Covid-19. In New York, London, Madrid and other cities, it became something of a ritual. For me, it was a daily reminder of those invisible workers, the public health professionals who battle the pandemic behind the scenes. It was also a reminder of how now, more than ever, we must invest in public health.
Lockdowns and physical distancing have proved crucial to slowing the spread of Covid-19 in the short term, but looking to the future these measures are unsustainable and have caused a lot of social and economic damage. As the race for the vaccine continues experts are now focused on improving testing, tracing and treatment efforts, especially in Africa, where life-threatening gaps exist.
Covid-19 has taught us that investing in health security research, preparedness and responsiveness, nationally, regionally and globally, is critical. For this to work and to beat similar crises in future, effective, credible, altruistic political leadership at all levels of society is needed.
Physical distancing is a tried and tested method of slowing the rate of infection during a pandemic (without the use of medical interventions). But as we’ve seen, it can have devastating economic, health and social effects, especially on developing nations.
Understanding the epidemiology of Covid-19 and moving forward would be critical to determining policy on the need to adopt interventions, including the Covid-19 vaccines that are being developed.
Finding the balance between limiting disease transmission, maintaining access to critical services and supporting livelihoods is the public health challenge of this century.
There is a need to consolidate global efforts to control and manage highly pathogenic agents like SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19). The legal framework under development by Africa-CDC will address this by assigning government agencies to regulate research activities that include high-consequence pathogens, and to ensure ethical boundaries are not breached.
Never before has the public had an opportunity to see, in glaring detail, the difference good governance makes. As Covid-19 spreads across the globe, we witness how different leaders address the same crisis. Some have the skills, qualities and appetite required to best guide their countries through the crisis, while others demonstrate their incompetence on a near-daily basis.