KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

White House Expected To Ask Congress For More Coronavirus Outbreak Response Funding; Trump Not Consulted Prior To Evacuation Of Infected Americans From Cruise Ship

FOX Business: White House to ask Congress for more money to fight coronavirus
“The Trump administration will ask Congress this week for more money to fight the deadly virus that originated in Wuhan, China, a source familiar with the matter told FOX Business. The exact amount of the request to Congress is unknown…” (Fordham, 2/23).

POLITICO: White House fears coronavirus could shape Trump’s 2020 fortunes
“The Trump administration is bracing for a possible coronavirus outbreak in the United States that could sicken thousands — straining the government’s public health response and threatening an economic slowdown in the heat of President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign. That stark realization has taken hold in high-level White House meetings, during which some administration officials have voiced concerns the coronavirus is already spreading undetected within U.S. borders, two officials told POLITICO. Though Trump in public has downplayed the virus, privately he has voiced his own anxieties, rebuking public health leaders over last week’s decision to fly home 14 Americans who tested positive for the virus while aboard a cruise ship off Japan, said three individuals with knowledge of the situation. Trump was worried that transporting the Americans to the United States without adequate precautions could create new risks, the individuals said…” (Diamond/Cancryn, 2/21).

Washington Post: Trump was not told coronavirus-infected Americans would be flown home from cruise ship
“President Trump grew furious with senior advisers [last] week over a decision to allow 14 Americans who tested positive for coronavirus to return to the United States from Japan after being assured that infected patients would remain in quarantine overseas, according to administration officials. … Trump was briefed on the decision and agreed that healthy passengers should not be on the plane with sick ones, three senior administration officials said. But the State Department and a top U.S. health official ultimately decided to bring back the 14 Americans who tested positive for the virus on the planes and place them in isolation — without informing the president first. … Administration officials are concerned that they might not be able to quarantine large numbers of people in the United States if a pandemic breaks out. There have been at least 10 meetings on quarantines in the past two weeks, administration officials said” (Abutaleb et al., 2/21).

Additional coverage of the U.S. government response to the coronavirus outbreak is available from The Hill (2), New York Times, Quartz, and Science Speaks.

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WHO DG Tedros Engages Chinese President Xi In Coronavirus Response; Xi Calls Outbreak 'Grim And Complex'

Bloomberg: As Pandemic Looms, World’s Top Disease Fighter Engages Xi
“…[WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus] is also engaged in a delicate diplomatic dance with a Chinese government that’s sensitive to perceived slights and a big financial supporter of countries across Africa, including Ethiopia, where he also served as foreign minister and a high-ranking member of its former ruling coalition. Tedros needs the support of China’s all-powerful President Xi Jinping to maintain on-the-ground access for the world’s best infectious disease experts. Xi, meanwhile, is facing public anger over his government’s handling of the crisis and has bristled at foreign criticism…” (Lauerman, 2/23).

The Hill: Xi defends China’s efforts to stop ‘grim and complex’ coronavirus epidemic
“Chinese President Xi Jinping defended China’s efforts to contain the ‘grim and complex’ coronavirus epidemic in the country Sunday. … Xi reportedly said during the conference that the Communist Party’s response to the ‘still grim and complex’ epidemic was ‘timely and effective,’ despite criticism from the public that officials did not act fast enough…” (Coleman, 2/23).

South China Morning Post: Coronavirus is China’s fastest-spreading public health crisis, President Xi Jinping says
“…[Xi] said that controlling the outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan and the wider province of Hubei as well as preventing the epidemic from spreading to Beijing, China’s political center, were the country’s top two strategic goals. … This meeting came a day before the Standing Committee of China’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress, is due to consider delaying the annual meeting of the parliamentary session, originally expected to get under way on March 5. The NPC Standing Committee will also consider measures to curb practices that may have contributed to the virus’s transmission to humans, including a ban on the wildlife trade and the consumption of game meat…” (Zheng, 2/23).

Additional coverage of China’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak and the virus’s impact in China is available from the AP, New York Times, Reuters, STAT, and Washington Post.

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As COVID-19 Continues To Spread Outside Asia, Experts Say Window To Prevent Pandemic Closing

AP: Italy rushes to contain Europe’s first major virus outbreak
“Italy scrambled Sunday to check the spread of Europe’s first major outbreak of the new viral disease amid rapidly rising numbers of infections and a third death, calling off the popular Venice Carnival, scrapping major league soccer matches in the stricken area and shuttering theaters, including Milan’s legendary La Scala…” (Bruno/D’Emilio, 2/23).

PRI: Controlling the spread of coronavirus is key to stopping a ‘true pandemic,’ NIH head says
“The epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak is China, but officials in South Korea, Iran, and Ukraine are also trying to manage the illness in their countries. … The World spoke to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force. He says two questions are important to answer: Are there more cases out there that we don’t know about? And can people who have no symptoms transmit the virus? The WHO delegation in China might be able to help answer those questions…” (2/21).

The Telegraph: Coronavirus: Chance to contain outbreak is ‘narrowing’ says WHO
“Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, has said he is concerned that the chance to contain the coronavirus outbreak was ‘closing.’ Although the number of cases outside China remained relatively small, the World Health Organization is worried about clusters of infections that have no clear link to China. Speaking at a press briefing [on Friday], Dr. Tedros said: ‘I believe the window of opportunity is still there, but that the window is narrowing’…” (Newey et al., 2/21).

Washington Post: Coronavirus explodes in Italy; cases surge from 3 to more than 200 in a few days
“In an unnerving four-day span, the coronavirus has arrived with force in Italy, with case numbers spiking almost hourly and the virus jumping from one region to the next across the country’s north. And for a nation racing to piece together how it happened and how to contain further spread, even the most basic questions give a sense of the challenge: Officials still are not sure how the virus even arrived in the country…” (Harlan/Pitrelli, 2/24).

Additional coverage of the international spread of COVID-19 is available from Bloomberg, Devex, The Guardian, The Hill, New York Magazine, NPR, Reuters (2), STAT, USA TODAY, Vox, and Washington Post.

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WHO Warns Funding For DRC Ebola Outbreak Response To Run Out At End Of Month, Urges Donors To Contribute

VOA: WHO Warns It is Running Out of Money to Tackle Ebola Epidemic in DRC
“The World Health Organization is urgently appealing for $40 million to salvage its operation to bring the Ebola epidemic to an end in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The Ebola operation in eastern DR Congo’s conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces is on financial life-support. The World Health Organization reports its coffers will be empty at the end of this month. It is urging donors to step up immediately and contribute the money needed to tackle this virulent disease…” (Schlein, 2/23).

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U.N. SG Guterres Urges End To 'Man-Made' Humanitarian Crisis In Syria; Northwest Region Faces Disease Outbreaks After Hospitals Bombed

AFP: U.N. chief urges new transit point for aid to Syria
“U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has urged the Security Council to authorize a new passage point on the Turkish border to allow humanitarian aid to reach the embattled population of northeast Syria, where medical supplies are running short. The recommendation came in a report issued Friday to Council members and seen Saturday by AFP…” (2/22).

SciDev.Net: Idlib facing disease outbreak after hospitals bombed
“Health services in north-west Syria are in crisis and refugees in crowded camps are facing infectious disease outbreaks as hospitals come under attack, medical workers say…” (Al-Ali, 2/21).

U.N. News: U.N. chief appeals for end to Syria’s ‘man-made humanitarian nightmare’
“In a tersely delivered statement on Friday, the U.N. Secretary-General appealed for an end to the ‘man-made humanitarian nightmare’ currently unfolding in Syria, where ongoing military operations in the north-west have displaced hundreds of thousands amid bitter winter temperatures. ‘The message is clear. There is no military solution for the Syrian crisis,’ António Guterres said, addressing journalists at U.N. Headquarters in New York. ‘The only possible solution remains political. This man-made humanitarian nightmare for the long-suffering Syrian people must stop. It must stop now’…” (2/21).

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Devex Explores Challenges Of Blended Finance For Development

Devex: Why blended finance hasn’t taken off
“Blended finance has been the hot topic in development finance circles for a number of years, but despite the excitement around it, the practice hasn’t taken off. … While there is more familiarity with the concept than there was a few years ago, there is still a lack of understanding about how to use concessional capital to help de-risk deals and bring in private investors, and the deals are still complicated and take time to put together…” (Saldinger, 2/24).

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More News In Global Health

AP: Zimbabwe’s rural elderly battle hunger amid severe drought (Mutsaka, 2/24).

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Atlanta’s next big thing: world hub for health innovation, preparedness (Trubey, 2/21).

CNN: Global food waste twice as high as previously estimated, study says (Erdman, 2/20).

The Guardian: India: male sterilization order withdrawn after flurry of criticism (Dhillon, 2/22).

IBT: What Are Superbugs? Silent, Invisible Killer Can Be Squashed With Global Efforts For New Antibiotics (Rex/Outterson, 2/22).

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Editorials and Opinions

Trump Administration Should Take 'Thoughtful Approach' To Funding U.S. Development Assistance Programs, MFAN Experts Write In Opinion Piece

Devex: Opinion: The hidden cost of cuts — how slashing foreign aid is wasteful and ineffective
Larry Nowels, co-chair of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN), and Conor Savoy, executive director of MFAN

“…When steadily and thoughtfully funded, U.S. development assistance can be a highly effective investment in U.S. interests abroad. … When funding for a program is suddenly in question, … time, money, and impact is lost as program managers attempt to plan for all scenarios that may arise due to resource uncertainties. … If sudden, unplanned cuts are actually enacted, … they can undermine the achievements of U.S. programs and investments and potentially reverse progress that has been made. … There are ways to thoughtfully prioritize funding decisions based on evidence, analysis, data, and program evaluations in order to maximize the effectiveness of meaningful American investments. … The current administration should take this thoughtful approach with programs such as Food for Peace, where reform — rather than outright elimination — would be more meaningful and cost-effective. This is a call for the Trump administration to understand that bluntly slashing foreign aid programs is inefficient, ineffective, and wasteful” (2/21).

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Letter To Editor Criticizes Ivanka Trump's Silence On Trump Administration's Reproductive Health Policies

Washington Post: Letters to the Editor: Ivanka Trump aids and abets the administration’s assault on reproductive rights
Rebecca Harrington, senior director of advocacy and outreach at Population Connection Action Fund

“…As President Trump’s associates celebrated Ivanka Trump for her Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, people around the world suffer because of the Trump administration’s egregious reproductive health policies. How does Ms. Trump expect people to become economically empowered when her father’s administration has worked to ensure that they can’t have control over their reproductive lives? … In imposing the [Mexico City policy, also known as the global gag rule,] and blocking funding to the United Nations Population Fund, the Trump administration has harmed the reproductive health of people around the world. … If Ms. Trump cared about empowering women around the world, she would stand up and speak out against the horrendous policies of the Trump administration. Instead, she has aided and abetted one of the worst assaults on reproductive health and rights in recent memory” (2/21).

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Opinion Pieces Discuss Various Aspects Of Disease Outbreaks, Including Coronavirus

The Atlantic: Democracies Are Better at Fighting Outbreaks
Ariana A. Berengaut, director of programs, partnerships, and strategic planning at the Penn Biden Center

The Atlantic: How the Coronavirus Revealed Authoritarianism’s Fatal Flaw
Zeynep Tufekci, associate professor at the University of North Carolina and faculty associate at the Harvard Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society (2/22).

Foreign Policy: Virus Travel Bans Are Inevitable But Ineffective
Mara Pillinger, associate at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University (2/23).

The Hill: Authoritarianism is the greatest public health risk
Adam Nelson, senior adviser at the National Democratic Institute (NDI) (2/23).

New York Times: Is It a Pandemic Yet?
Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, and Mark Olshaker, writer and documentary filmmaker (2/24).

New York Times: Letters to the Editor: Fears About Coronavirus, in the U.S. and Abroad
Multiple authors (2/21).

Washington Post: Japan’s response to the coronavirus is a slow-motion train wreck
Jeff Kingston, professor at Temple University Japan and author (2/21).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

BMJ Posts Discuss Lessons From COVID-19 Outbreak On Epidemic Response, Preparedness

BMJ Opinion: Robert Peckham: The covid-19 outbreak has shown we need strategies to manage panic during epidemics
Robert Peckham, MB Lee professor in the humanities and medicine, chair of the Department of History, and founding director of the Centre for the Humanities and Medicine at the University of Hong Kong, discusses how the coronavirus outbreak discusses the role of panic in disease outbreaks. Peckham writes, “Panic is still too little studied and far too little understood. It is easily dismissed as a distraction to the main task at hand of containing an epidemic. And yet the management of panic is likely to be key to managing infectious diseases in an ever more connected world” (2/21).

BMJ Opinion: Laura Hallas: Covid-19 is a timely reminder we need to improve global diagnostic capacity
Laura Hallas, public health student at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, discusses the importance of and offers recommendations for improving global diagnostic capacity beyond managing outbreaks, writing, “[W]e need to think of diagnostic capacity beyond crises. We can begin to achieve this goal in several ways. Firstly, national governments can embrace the 2018 Essential Diagnostics List (EDL). … Secondly, diagnostic care must be made financially viable … Finally, public health institutions should continue to support regional quality control initiatives like those run by the Africa CDC to improve disease surveillance” (2/20).

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UNFPA, WHO, DRC Work To Strengthen Infection Prevention, Control Measures In Reproductive Health Facilities Of Ebola-Affected Areas

UNFPA: Protecting midwives on the front lines of the Ebola response
This post discusses efforts by UNFPA, WHO, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to help strengthen infection prevention and control measures in reproductive health facilities in Ebola-affected areas (2/22).

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MSF Teams In DRC Using Solar Power In Health Care Facilities

Médecins Sans Frontières: Saving lives with solar power in Democratic Republic of Congo
“In remote parts of countries like Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where patients often have to walk long distances to get to a hospital, many health centers struggle with a very basic issue — a lack of access to electricity. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams have been coping with this logistical challenge for decades, usually relying on diesel generators. But in DRC’s South Kivu province, MSF teams are finding a cheaper, more effective, and sustainable solution through solar power…” (2/21).

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