Future pandemics will be worse without major strategy shift, study says

Deforestation is among the human activities which threaten to lead to another more deadly pandemic scientists say

Future pandemics will arise more frequently, spread more quickly, cause more damage to the world economy and kill more people than covid-19.

The group found that about half of an estimated 1.7 million undiscovered viruses in nature might be able to infect people.

Warning that without a "seismic shift" in how world governments approach the treatment of wildlife, land conservation, and public health, the planet could be entering an "era of pandemics", a United Nations-backed report released Thursday emphasized that the ability to avoid more public health crises like Covid-19 is entirely within the human population's control.

Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) workshop chairman and EcoHealth Alliance president Peter Daszak said: "There is no great mystery about the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic or of any modern pandemic".

The risk of pandemic can be reduced by decreasing the activities of human that drive the loss of biodiversity, by protecting conservation areas through strategies that will reduce unsustainable exploitation of sensitivity ecosystems around the world. This will require a deep reassessment and transformation of the relationship between humans and nature, and of the unsustainable consumption practices leading to biodiversity loss, climate change and the emergence of pandemics.

Authors of the special report on biodiversity and pandemics said that habitat destruction and insatiable consumption made animal-borne diseases far more likely to make the jump to people in future.

A panel of global experts today linked zoonotic diseases like COVID-19 to "unsustainable exploitation of the environment", including the wildlife trade and land-use change.

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Mr Johnson is expected to hold a news conference tomorrow to announce the new measures, said the report. Scientists say the true number of cases is much higher because not everyone with the virus is tested.

Seventy percent of emerging diseases - such as Ebola, Zika and HIV/AIDS - are zoonotic in origin, meaning they circulate in animals before jumping to humans. "We have the increasing ability to prevent pandemics - but the way we are tackling them right now largely ignores that ability".

But the assessment pointed to estimated costs as high as US$16 trillion as of July 2020.

Prevention would be 100 times cheaper than the cost of responding to pandemics, but governments as yet mostly rely on reactive measures such as vaccines, the report found.

This week, a group of more than 250 global biodiversity experts presented their findings about preventing future pandemics during the Global Landscapes Forum Digital Biodiversity Conference called "One World, One Health"-which was attended by 5,000 people from 120 countries, including Indigenous people and youth activists".

"We still rely on attempts to contain and control diseases after they emerge, through vaccines and therapeutics".

Allowing changes to reduce the types of consumption, globalised agricultural expansion and trade that have led to pandemics - this could include taxes or levies on meat consumption, livestock production and other forms of high pandemic-risk activities.

The experts recommend the establishment of a new intergovernmental partnership on health and trade, and the creation of a high-level intergovernmental council on pandemic prevention.

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