Friday, September 17, 2021

Global pandemic early warning hub planned

The hub will gather data from around the world in order to predict and prevent future pandemics.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced plans for a “Global Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence” based in Germany, which it says will gather data to predict and prevent future pandemics.

The new centre will be based in Berlin but will involve a global collaboration of countries and partners, reports CNBC.

WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “One of the lessons of Covid-19 is that the world needs a significant leap forward in data analysis to help leaders make informed public health decisions.”

He told reporters, “This requires harnessing the potential of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, combining diverse data sources, and collaborating across multiple disciplines. Better data and better analytics will lead to better decisions.”

Due to officially open later this year, the hub is envisaged as a way to create a large network of global data “to predict, prevent, detect, prepare for and respond to pandemic and epidemic risks worldwide”, WHO said in a statement on Wednesday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a video message that the current Covid-19 pandemic “has taught us that we can only fight pandemics and epidemics together. The new WHO hub will be a global platform for pandemic prevention, bringing together various governmental, academic and private sector institutions.”

She welcomed WHO’s decision to base the hub in Berlin while emphasising that it would be a global collaboration of WHO’s member countries, public and private sector organisations, academia, and international partner networks.

Obtaining funding for the hub is still ongoing although the startup costs have been covered by Germany, Dr Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, said.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn commented that the world needs to “identify pandemic and epidemic risks as quickly as possible, wherever they occur in the world. For that aim, we need to strengthen the global early warning surveillance system with improved collection of health-related data and inter-disciplinary risk analysis.”

The Covid-19 pandemic first emerged in China in late 2019, and the origin remains unclear.

Key to the success of the hub will be finding ways to guarantee that data is openly shared given continued uncertainty over the initial outbreak of Covid-19 and whether China delayed alerting the rest of the world to the presence of the new virus.

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