The outbreak of disease and pandemics remains one of the top risks in our world today. The growing threats to health security, with serious social, political, humanitarian and economic repercussions, require urgent prioritization by world leaders; including risks arising from climate change and antimicrobial resistance. It is imperative for G20 countries to enhance national, regional and global systems for outbreak prevention, preparedness, alert and response. We the G20 Engagement Groups B20, C20, L20, T20, W20 and Y20 believe that strengthening public health systems and supporting needs-driven, evidence-based, public-interest research and development (R&D) initiatives will equip us better when outbreaks occur. We issue this statement in light of the recent outbreaks of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and Ebola viral disease (EVD), to reiterate the role that the G20 partnership can play.
The G20 partnership has proven effective in tackling global issues, for example in prompting the launch of the Global AMR R&D Collaboration Hub. As a partnership of the world’s largest economies and diverse contexts, the G20 should take meaningful action on outbreak response. Any G20 initiative must adhere to the principles of accountability, transparency, and openness, in sharing the information about the outbreak of diseases. G20 governments must empower patients, healthcare providers, civil society actors, and the private sector with accurate information about the outbreak incidences, available treatment and affected communities. Governments should uphold their responsibility to educate the public about the outbreak of disease, to combat the proliferation of false information and vaccine hesitancy and take all appropriate preventative measures available.
In light of the 2020 G20 priorities, we call for the G20 leaders to fully prioritize building resilient health systems, and supporting research that is needs-driven, evidence-based, and adheres to the principles of affordability, equity and accessibility. This will better equip all actors to respond when outbreaks occur. As such, we recommend the following actions for G20 members to be taken in collaboration with partners, including civil society organizations and affected communities:
- Strengthen global outbreak response capacity: Commit to developing a resilient global outbreak response system, that is human-centered and rights-based; while keeping at its heart the principles of transparency, accountability, inclusivity, and empowerment of all stakeholders. To this end;
- Re-evaluate the existing global framework for pandemic preparedness, and review the performance and roles of existing stakeholders in health emergencies and outbreak responses, including the WHO, newly created financing agencies (e.g. CFE and PEF), multilateral and bilateral aid agencies, governments, private sector, and civil society.
- Recognize the global threat, and establish an evidence-based risk assessment and response approach, with clear action plans and strategies for preventing and responding to outbreaks. Based on that, a continuous improvement of surveillance systems, response plans, information sharing, and a one-health approach are needed to monitor the spread of diseases.
- Support partners, such as WHO, Gavi, and the Vaccine Alliance, to ensure adequate stockpiles of vaccines, medications and other crucial healthcare resources, in order to effectively respond to unforeseen outbreaks.
- Strengthen health systems: In light of recent UN commitments on universal health coverage (UHC), reinforce the first line of defense and further finance public health system capacities, including human resources for health from community to health experts, and infrastructure, especially in fragile and crises-prone states. To this end;
- Adopt a G20 initiative to expand diagnostic, treatment and surveillance capacity for infectious diseases across the world. This would greatly enhance the capacity of countries to tackle antimicrobial resistance and respond to outbreaks.
- Facilitate access to diagnostics and treatment for all patients and affected communities.
- Counter fake news, public misinformation, discrimination against patients and affected communities and the clinically inappropriate use of antibiotics, by responsibly regulating and monitoring the platforms that disseminate them;
- Support access to clean water and to sanitation facilities for all.
- Create awareness on epidemics, including COVID-19, and their likelihood of developing into pandemics; and disseminate credible information on how to stay healthy and safe, including for those without access to digital technology, by communicating health safety measures via global outreach mediums, local media channels, and direct communication (schools, places of work, among others).
- Ensure all health practitioners, especially those in disease prone areas, are adequately prepared for COVID-19 and other diseases by retraining them on infection prevention and control (IPC), handling personal protective equipment (PPE), and self-assessment.
- Implement knowledge exchange sessions between health practitioners in affected geographies and to those in at risk geographies to increase patient safety and limit risk. Verified knowledge should be made public and circulated to all health practitioners.
- Facilitate research and development: Accelerate coordinated efforts of R&D for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of acute viral infections, infectious diseases and neglected diseases. To this end;
- Support R&D initiatives that are needs-driven, evidence-based, gender-sensitive and guided by ethical principles of access and affordability and which make full use of emerging research methods. For example, models like the Drug for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) and the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP);
- Support research on social, political, and environmental determinants of outbreaks to find root-causes of the outbreaks to strengthen pandemic preparedness including affected communities.
The G20 countries must assume today their collective responsibility in combating infectious diseases. Since COVID-19 is an acute threat to public health, the G20 Engagement Groups expect the G20 governments to adopt these actions and provisions to reflect a pandemic preparedness health priority. We express our solidarity with all those affected by SARS-CoV-2 virus and the health workers who are tackling it. Pandemic preparedness gaps must be addressed through policy measures, not only in the G20 countries, but in all countries.
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