KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

G20 Recognizes Weaknesses In Health Systems Amid Pandemic; WHO DG Urges Nations To Slowly Lift Restrictions As Some Begin To Reopen; U.N. Urges U.S. To Strengthen COVID-19 Strategy

Reuters: G20 health ministers acknowledge health systems’ vulnerability to pandemics: statement
“Health ministers from the Group of 20 major economies discussed weaknesses in health systems that made the world vulnerable to the coronavirus outbreak and other pandemics, a statement said after a virtual meeting on Sunday. The Saudi G20 secretariat said that the ministers shared their national experiences, addressed necessary actions to improve preparedness and discussed systemic weaknesses exposed by the pandemic…” (Nehme et al., 4/19).

U.N. News: COVID-19: ‘Phased process’ for lifting restrictions is key, WHO chief urges G20
“The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) told a virtual meeting of the G20 leading global economies on Sunday that although it was encouraging for some countries to be planning to ease lockdowns against COVID-19, ‘it is critical that these measures are a phased process’…” (4/19).

Washington Post: Nations credited with fast response to coronavirus moving to gradually reopen businesses
“Several countries moved ahead with plans for the gradual reopening of their economies this week, signaling cautious optimism by their governments that measures to combat the novel coronavirus are working. Germany and South Korea — both role models in handling the outbreak in their respective regions — are slowly reversing some of the restrictions put in place weeks ago, embarking on a cautious and long path back to normality that could serve as a template for other nations…” (Noack et al., 4/20).

Bloomberg: U.S. Not Testing Enough for States to Reopen, Experts Say (Court, 4/18).

Devex: Watch: How Rwanda got ahead of the pandemic curve (Kumar, 4/20).

The Telegraph: Fear keeps people indoors, even where coronavirus lockdowns are slowly eased (Sawer et al., 4/18).

U.N. News: U.S. must improve COVID-19 strategy to keep tens of millions from falling into poverty, urges rights expert (4/17).

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Pandemic-Related Lockdowns Stoke Political, Social Unrest As Economies Suffer Worldwide

Washington Post: Stirrings of unrest around the world could portend turmoil as economies collapse
“As more than half the people in the world hunker down under some form of enforced confinement, stirrings of political and social unrest are pointing to a new, potentially turbulent phase in the global effort to stem the coronavirus pandemic…” (Sly/Salim, 4/19).

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U.N. Calls For Solidarity, Increased Funding For COVID-19 Pandemic Response

The Guardian: U.N. agencies issue urgent coronavirus appeal after $2bn request falls well short
“The heads of all the U.N.’s major agencies have issued a graphic warning of the risk of coronavirus to the world’s most vulnerable countries after disclosing that international donors had pledged around a quarter of the $2bn the U.N. requested for its emergency Covid-19 response in March. In an open letter shared before publication with the Guardian, the world’s most senior emergencies, health and development officials, warned that help for the world’s weakest countries was in everyone’s ‘interest to stop the virus from spreading unchecked, destroying lives and economies, and continuing to circle around the world’…” (Beaumont, 4/20).

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International Development Aid Slightly Increased In 2019 Over 2018, At Record Level, OECD Report Shows

New Humanitarian: In the news: International aid reached record levels in 2019
“The value of international development aid reached a new peak of $152.8 billion in 2019, a slight increase over 2018, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group of wealthy donor nations. Introducing the preliminary data, officials with the 29-member body urged donors to help low-income countries deal with the coronavirus crisis. ‘Pandemics are by essence Global Public Bads,’ the OECD reported. ‘No country is unaffected by the COVID-19 virus’…” (Parker, 4/17).

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WHO DG Expresses Concern Over Rise In COVID-19 Cases In Africa, Where 10 Nations Have No Ventilators

BBC: Coronavirus: Africa could be next epicentre, WHO warns
“Africa could become the next epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned. U.N. officials also say it is likely the pandemic will kill at least 300,000 people in Africa and push nearly 30 million into poverty. The past week in Africa has seen a sharp rise in coronavirus cases…” (4/17).

New York Times: 10 African Countries Have No Ventilators. That’s Only Part of the Problem.
“…In all, fewer than 2,000 working ventilators have to serve hundreds of millions of people in public hospitals across 41 African countries, the World Health Organization says, compared with more than 170,000 in the United States…” (Maclean/Marks, 4/18).

PBS NewsHour: WATCH: WHO chief says he’s concerned about virus uptick in Africa
“…Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says in the last week there has been a 51% increase in cases and a 60% jump in deaths. He says due to a lack of testing ‘it’s likely the real numbers are higher than reported.’ Tedros says WHO and partners are working to boost Africa’s testing capacity and that 1 million test kits would be rolled out across the continent starting next week…” (Santhanam, 4/17).

PRI: Policymakers rush to stave off economic collapse on the African continent
“While African countries were among the last to be hit by the novel coronavirus, the pandemic is already taking a toll on economies. Policymakers and economists are proposing all kinds of solutions to stave off a catastrophe, including large-scale debt relief…” (Gikandi, 4/17).

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India Sees Biggest Single-Day Virus Spike As Lockdown Eased; Europe Surpasses 1M Confirmed COVID-19 Cases; Canada's COVID-19 Data 'Trending In Right Direction' As Lockdown Measures Continue

AFRICA

Al Jazeera: Ethiopia plans to close Eritrean refugee camp despite concerns (Creta, 4/19).

Reuters: MSF says aid worker dies in Nigeria after contracting coronavirus (Carsten et al., 4/20).

Reuters: South Africa to increase welfare provision over coronavirus: Ramaphosa (Winning, 4/20).

ASIA

AP: North Korean defectors, experts question zero virus claim (Kim, 4/20).

AP: India reports biggest one-day virus spike as lockdown eased (Schmall, 4/20).

BBC: Coronavirus: Japan doctors warn of health system ‘break down’ as cases surge (4/18).

EUROPE

The Hill: Europe surpasses 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases (Coleman, 4/19).

New York Times: In Pandemic, a Remote Russian Region Orders a Lockdown on Information (Higgins/Kishkovsky, 4/19).

Reuters: Italy’s daily coronavirus death toll hits one-week low (Aloisi/Pollina, 4/19).

MIDDLE EAST

AP: Syria’s divisions damage efforts to mobilize against virus (El Deeb, 4/20).

New York Times: Dozens Test Positive for Coronavirus at Afghan President’s Palace (Mashal et al., 4/19).

Reuters: Turkey has most coronavirus cases outside Europe and U.S. (Evans, 4/19).

NORTH AMERICA

Reuters: Canadian coronavirus data trending in right direction, shutdowns to continue: PM (Ljunggren, 4/19).

U.N. News: U.N. staff step-up and step-in to support front line heroes battling COVID-19 in New York (4/19).

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STAT, Washington Post Examine Early Responses To Novel Coronavirus Outbreak, Including U.S. Distribution Of PPE To China

STAT: The months of magical thinking: As the coronavirus swept over China, some experts were in denial
“The response to the coronavirus pandemic in the United States and other countries has been hobbled by a host of factors, many involving political and regulatory officials. … But a subtler, less-recognized factor contributed to the wasting of precious weeks in January and February, when preparations to try to stop the virus should have kicked immediately into high gear. Magical thinking — you could call it denial — hampered the ability of even some of the most seasoned infectious diseases experts to recognize the full threat of what was bearing down on the world…” (Branswell, 4/20).

Washington Post: U.S. sent millions of face masks to China early this year, ignoring pandemic warning signs
“U.S. manufacturers shipped millions of dollars’ worth of face masks and other protective medical equipment to China in January and February with encouragement from the federal government, a Washington Post review of economic data and internal government documents has found. The move underscores the Trump administration’s failure to recognize and prepare for the growing pandemic threat…” (Eilperin et al., 4/18).

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Media Outlets Explore WHO Novel Coronavirus Response, Relationship With China, U.S., Politicization

Washington Post: Americans at World Health Organization transmitted real-time information about coronavirus to Trump administration
“More than a dozen U.S. researchers, physicians, and public health experts, many of them from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were working full time at the Geneva headquarters of the World Health Organization as the novel coronavirus emerged late last year and transmitted real-time information about its discovery and spread in China to the Trump administration, according to U.S. and international officials. A number of CDC staff members are regularly detailed to work at the WHO in Geneva as part of a rotation that has operated for years. Senior Trump-appointed health officials also consulted regularly at the highest levels with the WHO as the crisis unfolded, the officials said. The presence of so many U.S. officials undercuts President Trump’s assertion that the WHO’s failure to communicate the extent of the threat, born of a desire to protect China, is largely responsible for the rapid spread of the virus in the United States…” (DeYoung et al., 4/19).

Axios: Making the most of an imperfect WHO (Walsh, 4/18).

CNBC: WHO says China revised coronavirus infection data to ‘leave no case undocumented’ (Higgins/Feuer-Dunn, 4/17).

Financial Times: Doctors group accuses WHO of ‘political games’ over coronavirus (Manson/Cookson, 4/17).

The Hill: Birx says first country in pandemic has ‘higher moral obligation’ for transparency after Trump criticism of WHO response (Coleman, 4/19).

The Hill: Japan’s Abe calls for support for World Health Organization after U.S. cuts (Vella, 4/17).

Reuters: China rejects Australia’s questions on its handling of coronavirus (Crossley/Lee, 4/20).

Vox: How to fix the WHO, according to an expert (Kirby, 4/19).

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NIH Launches Public-Private Partnership With 16 Drug Companies To Search For SARS-CoV-2 Treatments, Vaccines

STAT: NIH partners with 16 drug companies in hopes of accelerating Covid-19 treatments and vaccines
“The National Institutes of Health on Friday announced it would launch a sweeping public-private partnership between federal researchers and 16 pharmaceutical companies, aimed at coordinating and accelerating the development of Covid-19 treatments and vaccines. The partnership, to be known as Accelerating Covid-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines, or ACTIV, is meant to standardize research between the federally funded researchers and a broad array of drug companies, and prioritize research into drugs and vaccines that are having high near-term potential…” (Facher, 4/17).

Additional coverage of the partnership is available from Roll Call and Science.

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Trump Willing To Provide Coronavirus-Related Aid To Iran 'If They Ask'

The Hill: Trump says he’d be willing to give coronavirus aid to Iran
“President Trump said Sunday that he’d be willing to give coronavirus aid, such as ventilators, to Iran ‘if they ask for it.’ ‘If Iran needed aid on this, I would be willing to do something, if they want it, if they ask for it,’ Trump said…” (Coleman, 4/19).

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Trump Campaign To Link Presidential Candidate Joe Biden To China Instead Of Focusing On President's COVID-19 Pandemic Response

Washington Post: Trump campaign concludes there is more to be gained by attacking Biden than trying to promote president’s pandemic response
“President Trump’s campaign is preparing to launch a broad effort aimed at linking Joe Biden to China, after concluding that it would be more politically effective than defending or promoting Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The decision by top campaign advisers, which has met pushback from some White House officials and donors, reflects polling showing a declining approval rating for Trump among key groups and growing openness to supporting Biden in recent weeks, according to officials familiar with the data who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations…” (Scherer et al., 4/18).

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Paul O'Neill, Treasury Secretary Under George W. Bush Who Traveled With Bono To Africa, Dead At 84

Washington Post: Paul H. O’Neill, treasury secretary and critic of George W. Bush administration, dies at 84
“Paul H. O’Neill, a corporate executive who was President George W. Bush’s first treasury secretary, only to become a leading critic of the administration after he was fired from his Cabinet post in 2002, died April 18 at his home in Pittsburgh. He was 84. … O’Neill also became known for his outspoken manner and his sometimes sharp dealings with members of Congress and colleagues within the White House. At his first Cabinet meeting in 2001, he reportedly distributed a speech he had delivered two years before about the dangers of global warming, saying it could be as devastating as a nuclear holocaust. It met with a frosty reception from the administration of a president who hailed from the Texas oil fields. … ‘One of the great things about where I am now: If people don’t like what I’m doing, I don’t give a damn,’ he said in 2002 while touring Africa with rock star Bono. ‘I could be off sailing around on a yacht or driving around the country. I’m here because I think I can make a difference’…” (Schudel, 4/18).

Additional coverage of O’Neill, including his work with Bono, is available from New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

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Escaped Ebola Patient Raises Fears Of Further Disease Spread In DRC, WHO Says

Reuters: Escape of Ebola patient in Congo sparks fear of further infection
“An Ebola flare-up in eastern Congo may spread again after a patient escaped from a clinic, complicating efforts to contain the disease that has infected six people since last week, the World Health Organization said on Sunday. The Democratic Republic of Congo was two days away from declaring the end of the world’s second-largest Ebola epidemic when a new chain of infection was discovered on April 10, following more than seven weeks without a new case…” (Kambale/Holland, 4/19).

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More News In Global Health

Devex: Q&A: On COVID-19, Melanne Verveer is waiting for a signal from U.N. Security Council (Lieberman, 4/20).

Devex: DFID holds off from explaining sky-high cost of U.K.-Africa Investment Summit (Abrahams/Worley, 4/20).

Devex: WASH advocates worry about ‘short memory’ of donors (Root, 4/20).

Devex: In Northern Triangle, rising food insecurity tests NGO adaptability (Welsh, 4/20).

The Guardian: Coronavirus vaccine: when will we have one? (Spinney, 4/19).

National Geographic: Worries mount that southern winter may tighten COVID-19’s grip (Langlois, 4/17).

New Humanitarian: The COVID-19 excuse? How migration policies are hardening around the globe (Reidy, 4/17).

Reuters: Exclusive: In Russia, a black market for HIV drug to try on coronavirus (Ivanova/Nikolskaya, 4/20).

Wall Street Journal: As Politicians Lean on Disease Modelers in Health Crisis, Some Scientists Fear a Backlash (Colchester, 4/19).

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Editorials and Opinions

Editorials, Opinion Pieces Discuss Various Aspects Of COVID-19 Pandemic

The Conversation: Africa joins the race to trace COVID-19 with genomics
Peter van Heusden, researcher at the University of the Western Cape (4/19).

Foreign Policy: A Global Pandemic Bailout Was Coming — Until America Stopped It
Adam Tooze, history professor and director of the European Institute at Columbia University (4/17).

The Guardian: Coronavirus knows no international borders, neither must its eventual cure
Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust (4/18).

The Guardian: Africans facing coronavirus must not suffer the injustices they saw with AIDS
Lydia Namubiru, Ugandan feminist and journalist and Africa editor for 50.50, a section of openDemocracy (4/18).

The Hill: Investments in global health programs pay off in pandemic response
Marian W. Wentworth, president and CEO of Management Sciences for Health (4/19).

IPS: U.N. Faces Financial & Liquidity Crisis as Global Pandemic Rages
Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former under-secretary general and high representative of the U.N. (2002-2007) and permanent representative of Bangladesh to U.N. (1996-2001) (4/17).

The Lancet Global Health: COVID-19: time to plan for prompt universal access to diagnostics and treatments
Luca Li Bassi, manager at Pharmaceutical Management Advisory Services, and Lenias Hwenda, CEO at Medicines for Africa (4/16).

Nature: Withholding funding from the World Health Organization is wrong and dangerous, and must be reversed
Editorial Board (4/17).

Washington Post: In-person church services right now are an affront to public health — and morality
Editorial Board (4/19).

Washington Post: How China’s authoritarian system made the pandemic worse
Editorial Board (4/17).

Washington Post: Virus models predict possible outcomes. We can fight to stop the worst ones.
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology at the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Helen Jenkins, infectious disease epidemiologist at Boston University School of Public Health (4/14).

Washington Post: The World Health Organization — under attack by Trump — was targeted by conservatives in 1948, too
Ronald G. Shafer, former editor at the Wall Street Journal and author (4/19).

Washington Post: Trump aligns with the world’s ‘ostrich’ leaders
Ishaan Tharoor, foreign affairs writer at the Washington Post (4/20).

Washington Post: Mark Zuckerberg: How data can aid the fight against covid-19
Mark Zuckerberg, founder and chief executive of Facebook (4/20).

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Former U.S. Official Examines Trump Administration's Africa Policy

The Hill: What analysts are missing about Trump’s Africa policy
Herman J. Cohen, former assistant secretary of state for African affairs (1989-1993), U.S. ambassador to Senegal and the Gambia (1977-1980), and senior director on the National Security Council (1987-1989)

“…For years, commentators have been split on whether the Trump Africa policy is nonexistent or is awful. … It is tempting to conclude that this administration doesn’t care about the continent, but this interpretation is unsupported by the facts. … U.S.-Africa policy, in substance, remains strong, defined by both its constants and new initiatives. … President Trump has threatened to remake U.S.-Africa relations with characteristic bravado, but so far, a bite has not followed this bark. Congress is preventing any apparent moves to reduce development and military aid. Far from ignoring or spurning Africa, Trump has fought to end conflicts, appointed a skilled Africa hand to run his policy, and is negotiating trade deals — all while aid continues to flow. These are not the telltale signs of withdrawal or disengagement” (4/17).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Release, Blog Posts Address Various Aspects Related To COVID-19 Pandemic

BMJ Blogs: Trumping the World Health Organization — what does it mean?
Charles Clift, senior consulting fellow at the Centre for Universal Health at Chatham House (4/17).

Brookings: Africa in the news: African governments, multilaterals address COVID-19 emergency, debt relief
Dhruv Gandhi, senior research analyst, and Christina Golubski, assistant director, both with the Africa Growth Initiative at Brookings (4/18).

Center for Strategic & International Studies’ “Take as Directed”: Coronavirus Crisis Update: Guidelines to Reopen — how, and when?
CSIS is producing a series of podcasts related to the COVID-19 pandemic (April 2020).

GeoPoll: Report: The Impact Of COVID-19 Across Africa
Roxana Elliott, author at GeoPoll (4/15).

Health Policy Plus/Medium: Estimating the Potential Impact of COVID-19 on Mothers and Newborns in Low- and Middle-Income Countries
Dorit Stein, associate for health financing at Palladium, and colleagues (4/15).

National Interest: Trump Should Be Tough On the WHO — And Recommit to Strengthening Global Health Security
Jeffrey Cimmino, program assistant in the Global Strategy Initiative in the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council (4/19)

ODI: Covid 19 — why gender matters
Caroline Harper, principal research fellow and director; Carmen Leon-Himmelstine, senior research officer; and Rachel George, senior research officer; all with the Gender Equality and Social Inclusion team at ODI (4/17).

UNAIDS: UNAIDS calls for increase in health spending and social protection as an essential part of the economic response to COVID-19 (4/16).

World Economic Forum: World Health Organization: what does it do and how does it work?
Peter Beech, World Economic Forum writer (4/17).

World Economic Forum: ‘Flattening the curve’ is a pipe dream for fragile countries
Zahra Alkhateeb (Bhaiwala) and Neekta Hamidi, both with the Global Shaper Community (4/20).

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From the U.S. Government

President Trump, Vice President Pence, Members Of Coronavirus Task Force Provide Updates On U.S. Response To COVID-19 At Press Briefings Over Weekend

White House: 4/19/20: Members of the Coronavirus Task Force Hold a Press Briefing (4/19).

White House: Remarks by President Trump and Members of the Coronavirus Task Force in Press Briefing (4/18).

White House: Remarks by President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Members of the Coronavirus Task Force in Press Briefing | April 17, 2020 (4/17).

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HHS Secretary Provides Statement On Launch Of Public-Private Partnership For COVID-19 Research Response

HHS: Secretary Azar Statement on New Partnership to Develop National Strategy for COVID-19 Therapies and Vaccines
In a statement on the launch of a public-private partnership among U.S. agencies, the European Medicines Agency, and private pharmaceutical companies, to develop a national strategy for a coordinated research response to the COVID-19 pandemic, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said, “To save lives and bring life back to normal in the United States and around the world, we need COVID-19 vaccines and therapies on the market as soon as possible. By bringing together 16 pharmaceutical companies and five government agencies here and abroad, the [Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV)] partnership will accelerate the amazing work being done every day by scientists and innovators inside and outside of government” (4/17).

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CDC's MMWR Discusses Progress Toward Measles Elimination In Eastern Mediterranean

CDC’s “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report”: Progress Toward Measles Elimination — Eastern Mediterranean Region, 2013-2019
James L. Goodson, senior measles scientist at the Global Immunization Division at CDC’s Center for Global Health, and colleagues discuss measles immunization, surveillance activities, and progress toward measles elimination in the Eastern Mediterranean region (EMR), writing, “To accelerate progress toward measles elimination in EMR, the visibility of efforts to achieve the measles elimination goal must be raised, including the benefits of achieving measles elimination. … To achieve vaccination coverage and equity targets that leave no one behind and accelerate progress toward measles elimination and broader [global] goals, sustained and predictable investments and careful management of the leveraging of the substantial polio eradication infrastructure and resources are critically needed” (4/17).

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From KFF

KFF Updates Fact Sheet On U.S. Government, World Health Organization

KFF: The U.S. Government and the World Health Organization
This fact sheet provides information about the World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. government funding and engagement with WHO. In April, the White House announced it would be suspending financial support for WHO pending a review of the organization’s activities related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Assessed contributions from the U.S. to the WHO have ranged from $107 to $119 million over the last decade. The U.S. also has made additional voluntary contributions, ranging from $102 to $401 million per year (4/16).

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KFF Resources Examine Global, Domestic Issues Related To COVID-19

KFF: COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker — Updated as of April 20, 2020 (4/20).

Additional KFF COVID-19 resources, including those focused on the response and impact within the U.S., are available here. KFF’s new blog series “Coronavirus Policy Watch” is available here.

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