Europe Desperately Requires Comprehensive Healthcare, Surveillance, and Governance Reforms

Countries must swiftly overhaul healthcare, surveillance, and governance if the Pan-European region is to be prepared for the next pandemic. This is one of the key conclusions of a World Health Organization (WHO) report that looked at how 53 nations dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the report, the scientific community’s frequent warnings of a worldwide pandemic were ignored, resulting in a society that was unprepared when the virus first emerged in late 2019. 

In this latest WHO report, Prof. dr. ir. Louise O. Fresco, president of Wageningen University & Research (WUR), was a member of the Pan-European commission on Health and Sustainable Development. In light of pandemics, they rethought policy priorities. Fresco, who led the commission’s One Health working group, urged for a convergence of human, animal, and environmental knowledge at the national, pan-European, and global levels. When these professions are combined, the world will not only be able to deal with future pandemics more quickly, but it may also be able to help prevent them. 

According to the WHO report, many countries’ first ‘knee-jerk’ response to the pandemic was to block geographic and economic boundaries. Countries responded in a fragmented manner, ignoring cross-national implications. COVID-19, on the other hand, demonstrated that single-country solutions are insufficient to combat the spread of contagious diseases in today’s hyper-connected globalized globe. Only through coordinated international action can such situations be properly addressed. 

COVID-19’s effects have been and continue to be disastrous, according to the WHO assessment, due to varied and erroneous policy responses. With over 1.2 million deaths in Europe alone (over 4 million worldwide) and an unparalleled economic collapse that eclipses the global financial crisis of 2008, the situation is dire. The world must learn from its mistakes since we cannot afford to repeat them. 

The WHO report emphasizes the importance of the notion of One Health. It acknowledges the interdependence of humans, animals, plants, and their shared environment. When one piece of One Health is jeopardized, the other pieces are jeopardized as well. Human actions such as deforestation, wildlife trafficking and consumption, and international travel are likely to have aided SARS-genesis CoV-2’s and global spread. 

Wageningen University & Research has always been a prominent scientific voice, warning politicians about pandemics like COVID-19. WUR unveiled ERRAZE@WUR earlier this year, which is essentially a global One Health programme. Researchers from diverse disciplines collaborate in the ERRAZE@WUR (Early Recognition and Rapid Action in Zoonotic Emergencies) research and investment framework to help establish the scientific foundation needed to avert future pandemics and reduce their damage. 

The Netherlands is in an excellent position to act on the report’s recommendations. The government can use WUR and the Center for One Health (NCOH) expertise to integrate One Health into all policies. 

WUR hopes that by launching this project, it will be able to assist policymakers and decision-makers, as well as the general public, in preventing and reducing future pandemics. Wageningen University and Research encourage partners and other organizations to participate in the new ERRAZE@WUR framework and work together to discover solutions.