London, Oct 30 : A major new report by 22 leading experts from around the world, has revealed that future pandemics will emerge more often, spread more rapidly and do more damage to the world economy.
Future pandemics will kill more people than Covid-19 unless there is a transformative change in the global approach to dealing with infectious diseases, the experts added.
In the report, by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)in Germany, the experts agree that escaping the era of pandemics is possible, but that this will require a seismic shift in approach from reaction to prevention.
Covid-19 is at least the sixth global health pandemic since the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918, and although it has its origins in microbes carried by animals, like all pandemics its emergence has been entirely driven by human activities, the IPBES report said.
According to the researchers, there is no great mystery about the cause of the Covid-19 pandemic — or of any modern pandemic.
“The same human activities that drive climate change and biodiversity loss also drive pandemic risk through their impacts on our environment.
“Changes in the way we use land; the expansion and intensification of agriculture; and unsustainable trade, production and consumption disrupt nature and increase contact between wildlife, livestock, pathogens and people,” said Peter Daszak, President of EcoHealth Alliance and Chair of the IPBES.
“This is the path to pandemics,” the authors wrote.
The experts stressed that pandemic risk can be significantly lowered by reducing the human activities that drive the loss of biodiversity, by greater conservation of protected areas, and through measures that reduce unsustainable exploitation of high biodiversity regions.
This will reduce wildlife-livestock-human contact and help prevent the spillover of new diseases.
“The overwhelming scientific evidence points to a very positive conclusion,” said Daszak.
The IPBES report said that relying on responses to diseases after their emergence, such as public health measures and technological solutions, is a “slow and uncertain path”.
The report also offers a number of policy options that would help to reduce and address pandemic risk.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of science and expertise to inform policy and decision-making,” said study author Anne Larigauderie, Executive Secretary of IPBES.