SINGAPORE – The next global pandemic could come at any time and the world must prepare for it now, said Singapore Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
“We do not have the luxury of waiting for the end of Covid before we prepare for the next pandemic, because the next pandemic can come at any time,” Tharman told CNBC’s Annette Weisbach at the G-20 summit in Italy.
“So we have to use our current efforts to fight Covid to also build the necessary capacities to fight off the next pandemic,” he added.
The World Health Organization has declared the Covid-19 outbreak a global pandemic last March. The coronavirus – first discovered in China in late 2019 – has infected more than 186 million people and caused at least 4 million deaths worldwide, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
A G-20 panel of global experts published on Friday a Report proposing measures to prevent outbreaks and react quickly to future pandemics. Tharman chairs the committee with the former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and the Director General of the World Trade Organization Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
The measures include “better and more reliable funding” for the World Health Organization as well as unlocking multilateral institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to fund the fight against a pandemic, Tharman said.
He added that the current international system for responding to a global pandemic was “fragmented” and “underfunded”. To fill this gap, the panel proposed setting up a new global fund with at least $ 10 billion a year, the Singapore minister said.
“What is missing in the global system today, you have a health administration under the World Health Assembly and WHO, you do not have a system that brings finance and health together,” Tharman said.
“And that’s why the system is underfunded. It reacts after the event after a crisis has broken out and cannot proactively avert future crises,” he added.