How to avoid new and perhaps more serious pandemics?

Experts gathered by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) warn in a report launched on 29 October 2020 that there may be more and worse pandemics than covid-19 in the future. The experts give advice on how we can both reduce and manage the risk of new and worse crises.

The advice from a group of leading experts is clear in a report on biodiversity and pandemics from an expert workshop organized by IBPES: In the future, new pandemics will appear more often, spread faster, do more damage to the world economy and kill more people than covid-19 unless we fundamentally change the way we deal with communicable diseases globally.

-We must do more to predict and prevent the emergence of pathogens, and the world must be better prepared to face new pandemics. In this report we try to describe where we are right now in terms of disease emergence and biodiversity loss and how these two relate and pose a risk for the future, says Carlos das Neves who has been appointed by Norway as expert to the group that prepared this report. With a research background in wildlife health, he is currently the Director for Research and Internationalisation at the Norwegian Veterinary Institute, and simultaneously the President of the International Wildlife Disease Association.

-Covid-19 has its origins in microbes carried by animals, and like most pandemics its emergence has been entirely driven by human activities. It is estimated that another 1.7 million currently ‘undiscovered’ viruses exist in mammals and birds – of which up to 850,000 could have the ability to infect people, explains Carlos das Neves who also points out that these are topics that concern us all no matter where we are in the world and that are therefore a focus for the work carried at the Norwegian Veterinary Institute.

Last July the IPBES convened 22 experts for a virtual workshop to discuss the link between nature degradation and increasing pandemic risk. In the report published today by the IPBES, the experts agree that it is possible to avoid new serious pandemics, what some call "the time of pandemics". However, it will require a comprehensive shift in how we approach pandemics from response to prevention.

-In the report, we identify a number of policy alternatives that will help reduce and manage the risk of new pandemics. I hope the report will help politicians and the public administration, together with research communities, to discuss and implement a holistic health approach - what we call "One health". By focusing on how to predict and prevent pandemics and contribute to good solutions to the great and worldwide challenges we now see, we can succeed, das Neves concludes.

Download the press release from IPBES.

Read more and download the full report here.

About IPBES:

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was formed in 2012 by governments from 94 nations. IPBES is an independent, intergovernmental organization with headquarters located in Bonn, Germany. The plenary session is the supreme governing body, and the UN Environment Programme UNEP is administratively responsible. The panel also has partner agreements with FAO, UNDP and UNESCO. The coordinating unit in Norway is the Norwegian Environment Agency, which is the national contact point.

The IPBES is a platform that will promote increased dialogue between knowledge, research and decision-makers. The panel's expert groups carry out solid, independent and peer-reviewed knowledge analyzes, which are also relevant because they are planned in consultation with the users and based on the users' needs and current societal challenges.

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