SINGAPORE — The next global pandemic could happen at any time and the world must start preparing for it now, said Singapore’s Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
“We don’t have the luxury of waiting for Covid to be over before we start preparing for the next pandemic, because the next pandemic can come any time,” Tharman told CNBC’s Annette Weisbach at the G-20 summit in Italy.
“So we’ve got to use our current effort to tackle Covid, to also build up the capacities required to head off the next pandemic,” he added.
The World Health Organization declared the Covid-19 outbreak a global pandemic in March last year. The coronavirus — which was first detected in China in late-2019 — has infected more than 186 million people and caused at least 4 million deaths worldwide, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University showed.
A G-20 panel of global experts on Friday released a report proposing measures to prevent outbreaks and quickly respond to any future pandemic. Tharman co-chairs the panel with former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
The measures include “better and more reliable funding” for the World Health Organization, as well as tapping multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to help fund the fight against a pandemic, said Tharman.
He added that the current international system to respond to a global pandemic is “fragmented” and “under-funded.” To plug that gap, the panel proposed setting up a new global fund with a minimum $10 billion a year, said the Singapore minister.
“What’s lacking today in the global system, you’ve got health governance under the World Health Assembly and the WHO, you don’t have a system that brings finance together with health,” Tharman said.
“And that’s why the system is under-funded. It reacts after the event, after a crisis has broken out and unable to proactively head off future crises,” he added.