Leung says the countries that have managed COVID-19 best are those which have supported and invested heavily in public-health infrastructure. They also tried to remove financial and other barriers to good healthcare.
“It’s really getting to be very clear how and in what way we should, and in fact must, rethink and reform some of those really key fundamental public health and healthcare infrastructures around the world,” he says.
For Halton, that equality issues remains critical, using the 2009 swine-flu pandemic as an example of the risks of what has been called “vaccine nationalism”.
“Wealthy countries bought up the supply of flu vaccine and that meant that others around the world who had a genuine need, had to wait at the end of the supply chain before they could actually access that vaccine,” she said. “And we know that doesn't get the best outcomes.”
With COVID-19, the stakes are even higher, Halton says. Prioritising the poor, the elderly and others such as first-responders and those who are immuno-compromised for vaccination while production scales up will have wide ramifications.
“If we make any vaccines available to those people first we will prevent about two-thirds of deaths,” she says. “If we vaccinate the developed countries first, we will prevent [just] one-third of deaths.”
Halton says avoiding such vaccine nationalism would not only have humanitarian benefits but economic ones too.
“It means for those in business that you can get back to business because, as I keep saying, while ever any single country has this (virus), we’ve all got it,” she said.
ANZ Chief Economist Richard Yetsenga said for business, COVID-19 will continue to impact the operating environment even after a successful vaccine emerges.
“[COVID is] still a risk,” he said. “But of course, a risk that’s better understood is a risk that can be better managed.”
For Leung, a collective approach is the key to solving all the issues form the pandemic.
“What we need are global answers to these global problems,” he says. “What we need is to rethink and reimagine globalism 2.0.”