Global collaboration to fight COVID-19
The strange case of Indonesia
While for many countries the week of 27 April-5 May opens with the so-called “Phase 2”, where many lockdown measures are being relaxed in order to resume production, the week of 20-26 April ended with a total of 2,810,325 cases and 193,825 deaths, confirming the seriousness of the situation, but still with some signs of hope. On 24 April in Geneva, a large virtual meeting saw the main players in global health, their large private sector partners and some heads of State and Government launch a global collaboration model to accelerate development, production and equitable access to essential new health technologies to combat COVID-19.
Participating in the event, streamed by the WHO in several languages, were, among others, French President Emmanuel Macron, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and Melinda Gates of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who were among the first to speak (you can see the video in full at https://www.who.int/news-room/events/detail/2020/04/24/default-calendar/global-collaboration-to-accelerate-new-covid-19-tools).
The significance of the “ACT Accelerator” process was illustrated by the WHO Director-General, who reminded us that “the COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global crisis that has been met with an unprecedented global response. Research and development have played a central role”, but, added Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “past experience has taught us that even when tools are available, they have not been equally available to all. We cannot allow that to happen.” (https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-launch-of-the-access-to-covid-19-tools-accelerator).
The “Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator” process, abbreviated to ACT Accelerator, is “a landmark collaboration to accelerate the development, production and equitable distribution of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics to combat COVID-19. Our shared commitment”, he reiterated, “is to ensure all people have access to all the tools to defeat COVID-19.” The ACT Accelerator should, therefore, bring together the combined power of various organisations to work quickly on future solutions. An important commitment to global health collaboration.
Only time will tell how much this will translate into a truly global and shared experience. In fact, many countries have acted on the basis of their own national context with mixed results, partly due to very different local traditions. An interesting example is Indonesia, where only on Friday, 24 April, the government issued a decree banning mudik, a local term indicating the transfer of thousands of families and individuals to their home villages for Ramadan. Just before the start of the month of Islamic fasting, which began on 24 April and ends on 23 May with the feast of Eid al-Fitr, Jakarta had not yet taken a clear position, with the risk that the transfer of millions of people to their home villages (last year, twenty from the capital alone) could turn into a chain reaction spread of the virus. It responded just before the start of mudik. On Sunday, 26 April, government sources revealed that on that date there were 19,648 patients under observation for suspected infection, while confirmed cases had increased to 8,882 with a total of 743 deaths.