Testimony on COVID-19 and U.S. International Pandemic Preparedness

June 30, 2020


Recommendations for Preparedness for COVID-19
The Center for Global Development
February 13, 2020

On June 30, 2020, CGD senior policy fellow Jeremy Konyndyk testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a hearing titled "COVID-19 and U.S. International Pandemic Preparedness, Prevention, and Response: Additional Perspectives." Konyndyk's testimony highlighted key elements needed for an effective US approach to pandemic preparedness and response and examined the role of the critical role played by the World Health Organization in responding to global health crises. 

From the testimony:

This hearing comes as the COVID-19 pandemic is proving what public health experts have warned for years: no country in the world is adequately prepared for a lethal pandemic. Many countries today are failing to contain the virus, whether through poor management, weak systems, late action, or all of the above. There is an aphorism that one must never waste a crisis. So even as we work to defeat the current pandemic, we must begin learning from the failures to contain it, and prepare ourselves to be more ready the next time around. We are fortunate that COVID, while highly transmissible, has a lethality far lower than past threats like SARS-1, Ebola, or the 1918 pandemic flu. A comparably transmissible virus with a much higher lethality is plausible, and over time even probable. So we must use this moment to marshal the political will to be ready for that.

Being ready for the next pandemic must be a global effort: US readiness at home will be compromised if there are vulnerabilities overseas. As COVID is teaching us, a lethal pathogen will take advantage of any weakness in the world’s defenses. The Pandemic All Hazards Preparedness Act, which was reauthorized a year ago, focuses on domestic pandemic readiness but is nearly silent on international aspects. This is a moment to rectify that, for our global and our domestic efforts must be well aligned. We must understand that our investments in global cooperation are not purely altruistic; the also keep us safe. And we must connect those efforts directly into our domestic efforts.  

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