No country or region is immune to ravaging diseases. With the global spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), it is urgent to strengthen solidarity to fight the pandemic. Many international organizations have called for unity and cooperation among countries. There should be no beggar-thy-neighbor thinking, selfishness or indifference.
All countries should provide updates on the disease scenario on their home turf at the earliest and in an open and transparent manner. They should enhance coordination and cooperation at the regional and global level to stop the spread of the virus.
Sharing of anti-epidemic experiences and measures should be enhanced. In particular, innovative diagnosis and treatment methods that can improve the ability to cope with the new virus should be available internationally.
Scientific and technological collaboration should also be strengthened. As different countries have advantages in different fields, joint research will enable to develop the most effective drugs and vaccines the fastest.
Assistance should be provided to the most affected or vulnerable countries and regions. Since the outbreak, World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Ahanom Ghebreyesus has highlighted the necessity to enhance the response for countries with a fragile healthcare system. These countries have relatively backward emergency medical reserves and medical treatment facilities. Their underdeveloped public broadcast systems cannot properly disseminate information and messages on prevention and control measures.
The socioeconomic development in most of these countries is at a stage of transition or reform. The outbreak will not only directly threaten people's health but also disturb their development trajectory. Since it is imperative to formulate effective policies and programs to tackle the impact of the outbreak, countries with an insufficient governance capacity will fail to do so. A period of lockdown will upset the balance between public health security and economic development and may even lead to social unrest in these countries.
Global assistance is thus particularly critical. International organizations such as WHO and countries with strong public health systems can help affected developing countries establish a basic mechanism for collecting, summarizing and analyzing information on the epidemic. They should also be provided medical supplies for diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19, if necessary, as well as masks, gloves and disinfectants.
Open and transparent global information sharing, as well as timely communication of experiences and plans for effective diagnosis and treatment is needed. This will help developing and less developed countries make preparations accordingly and enhance their abilities.
The international community should objectively and fairly evaluate and recognize the efforts of countries in preventing and controlling the virus and not stigmatize any country.
Viruses know no borders. Therefore everyone should show empathy while countries with greater capabilities should provide more help to fight the pandemic.
Public health security is an important part of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. According to it, developed countries are obliged to provide more financial and technical support to poorer nations. They should provide more financial support to WHO and developing countries, help WHO coordinate international efforts to accelerate research and development (R&D) of vaccines, and provide financial assistance to poorer countries and improve their public health systems.
Developed countries, with their advantages in scientific R&D, should reduce the price of drugs and vaccines and provide emergency assistance to the countries needing it most. They can send experts to the WHO joint team or to the developing countries directly, if the latter's governments call for such assistance. These experts can help carry out epidemiological investigation and provide medical advice.
Countries should respect the role of WHO in maintaining global public health security, follow the principle of multilateralism, participate in the global effort to defeat the virus, and fight political hype or manipulation using the epidemic as an excuse.
Since the outbreak, many countries have been collaborating under the framework of WHO, which has played an active role in sharing information, training medical staff, and exchanging treatment plans and prevention and control measures. This has accelerated global cooperation on science and technology. The effective functioning of WHO as an international platform has countered the current trend of unilateralism and anti-globalization and consolidated multilateralism.
The international community is realizing that in this era of globalization, we are all living in a community with a shared future. The health, safety and wellbeing of every person is closely connected. So strengthening international cooperation to control the epidemic is the only option.
The author is an associate professor at the School of Government, Beijing Normal University
Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar
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