The (re)insurance industry, policyholders and governments throughout the world must come together on an approach that offers relief to those who need it now and develop a plan to implement mitigation strategies and a response mechanism for future pandemic events.
The public-private partnership model is one that has worked particularly well to date for other risks that are capable of causing systemic economic shocks, such as terrorism. TRIA and Pool Re are two fine examples where the security of backing from central governments has allowed private carriers to offer comprehensive terrorism policies at affordable costs. Whatever model is pursued for pandemics, COVID-19 has shown that any viable, long-term solution requires government participation. The World Health Organization’s annual budget — USD 2.4 billion (1) — is far outweighed by the economic and development costs of the pandemic so far. In the early stages of the pandemic, delivery of supplementary crisis funding proved to be a slow process. It took two months to meet an initial funding goal of USD 675 million (2). International finance organizations were faster to mobilize to help low- and middle-income nations prepare healthcare services and support households during lockdowns. However, here too greater preparedness is needed (3): although funding was available in March or April when pre-determined triggers were in place, in the absence of those triggers relief took longer to disburse.
Based on the dire economic and development consequences of the pandemic thus far and experience from previous infectious diseases, the benefits from investing more in preparedness globally would have been a valuable investment especially if also coupled with the enhancement of health systems. This will continue to be the case and is true across different types of disasters (4).
Information collection and sharing
Early response efforts were hampered by the lack of robust data-sharing systems that would enable large-scale and near-real-time analysis on information such as testing and infection rates, fatality numbers, personal mobility and viral genome sequences (5). Although such systems were rapidly developed, they were often restricted by a lack of open data standards.
Collaboration between the private and public sectors did work well in some cases. For example, in March 2020, the World Economic Forum launched the COVID Action Platform and communicated weekly updates from governments, the World Health Organization, and vaccine manufacturers with more than 1,800 executives and leaders. The platform has helped channel the supply of essential equipment through the Pandemic Supply Chain Network.
1. WHO (World Health Organization). 2019. Programme budget 2020–2021. https://www.who.int/about/financesaccountability/budget/WHOPB-PRP-19.pdf?ua=1
2. Buranyi, S. “The WHO v coronavirus: why it can’t handle the pandemic”. The Guardian. 10 April 2020. https:// www.theguardian.com/news/2020/apr/10/world-health-organization-who-v-coronavirus-why-it-cant-handlepandemic
3. Hill, R., Patel, D., Yang, Y. and Gascoigne, J. 2020. “Funding covid-19 response: Tracking global humanitarian and development flows to meet crisis needs”. Centre for Disaster Prevention, COVID-19 Blog Series. 25 June 2020. https://www.disasterprotection.org/latest-news/funding-covid-19-response-tracking-globalhumanitarian-and-development-flows-to-meet-crisis-needs
4. Commission on a Global Health Risk Framework for the Future, National Academy of Medicine. 2016. The Neglected Dimension of Global Security: A Framework to Counter Infectious Disease Crises. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK368391/; Stutzman, H., Micah, A.E. and Dieleman, J.L. 2020. “Funding Pandemic Preparedness: A Global Public Good”. Think GlobalHealth. 23 April 2020. http://www.thinkglobalhealth.org/article/funding-pandemic-preparedness-global-public-good; Kaniewski, D. 2020. “The Value of Disaster Planning Outweighs Its Cost — Sixfold.” Brink. 19 November 2020. https:// www.brinknews.com/the-value-of-disaster-planning-outweighs-its-cost-sixfold/
5. Cosgriff, C.V., Ebner, D.K. and Celi, L.A. 2020. “Data sharing in the era of COVID-19”. The Lancet – Digital Health: Correspondence 2 (5): E224. 1 May 2020. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/landig/article/PIIS25897500(20)30082-0/fulltext