Governments around the world “showed themselves to be untrustworthy and ineffective” during the coronavirus pandemic, leading to several million deaths and a “massive global failure” at multiple levels, the Lancet COVID-19 Commission wrote in a report published Wednesday.
“Too many governments have failed to adhere to basic norms of institutional rationality and transparency, too many people—often influenced by misinformation—have disrespected and protested against basic public health precautions, and the world’s major powers have failed to collaborate to control the pandemic,” the panel of international experts wrote.
The commission also urged the scientific community to intensify its search for the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19.
“The proximal origins of SARS-CoV-2 are still not known,” the commission wrote. “Identifying these origins would provide greater clarity into not only the causes of the current pandemic but also vulnerabilities to future outbreaks and strategies to prevent them.”
SARS-CoV-2 could have zoonotic origins, meaning that it emerged from a natural spillover event, such as infection at a wet market.
The virus also could have a research-related origin, either by infection of a scientist in the field, infection in the laboratory while studying a natural virus, or infection “while studying viruses that have been genetically manipulated,” according to the commission.
“The search for origins requires unbiased, independent, transparent, and rigorous work by international teams in virology, epidemiology, bioinformatics, and other related fields,” the commission wrote.
At least 6.9 million deaths have been reported worldwide, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, but the actual number is likely around 17 million.
More than one million people have died in the United States alone, and about 350 Americans continue to die every day, according to the latest numbers from the CDC.
The World Health Organization responded to the commission’s criticism on Wednesday, saying that the report does not “convey the full arc of WHO’s immediate, multi-year, life-saving response.”
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky ordered a reorganization of the agency last month to better prepare for future pandemics.
“For 75 years, CDC and public health have been preparing for COVID-19, and in our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations,” she told employees, according to a statement obtained by the Washington Post. “My goal is a new, public health action-oriented culture at CDC that emphasizes accountability, collaboration, communication, and timeliness.”