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The Deadly Urgency of Now

Summary:
The consequences of lapses in international cooperation in combating COVID-19 over the last few months can now be counted in lost lives. Having failed to stop the first wave of the pandemic, we must not make the same mistake again. LONDON – “This is not a discrete one-off episode,” Wellcome Trust head Jeremy Farrar has warned. “This is now an endemic human infection.” What the Stock Market Is Really Saying PS OnPoint Xinhua/Michael Nagle via Getty Images The EU Should Issue Perpetual Bonds Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

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The consequences of lapses in international cooperation in combating COVID-19 over the last few months can now be counted in lost lives. Having failed to stop the first wave of the pandemic, we must not make the same mistake again.

LONDON – “This is not a discrete one-off episode,” Wellcome Trust head Jeremy Farrar has warned. “This is now an endemic human infection.”

COVID-19, as Farrar suggests, knows no boundaries, geographic, political, or otherwise. Nor must our efforts to defeat it. No one can be truly safe unless the disease is tackled wherever it takes hold.

To prevent what many scientists now fear – a second wave of the pandemic later this year – we must urgently act where the need is most pressing: in the world’s poorest countries. As Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s prime minister and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has warned, if the coronavirus sweeps through Africa, it will return to haunt us all.

Abiy is not understating the threat. The United Nations estimates that COVID-19 could cost between 300,000 and three million lives in Africa. Furthermore, as many as 130 million people globally may be pushed to the brink of starvation by a breakdown in global supply chains.

A successful exit strategy from this pandemic requires testing, treatments, and a vaccine. And if developing countries cannot combat the virus effectively, we may be powerless to prevent further outbreaks around the world.

That risk is glaringly real. Of sub-Saharan Africa’s 45 countries, 34 spend less than $200 per capita annually on health care. In five countries, health spending is less than $50. Countries have little testing...

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