This pandemic has been as devastating to lives and livelihoods as any war. And yet the world has failed to mobilize the money, the tools, and the political leadership we would muster if we faced a world-wide conflict.
As we approach the one-year anniversary of the pandemic, the impact is stunning: it has claimed almost 2.5 million lives, shattering families and communities, and left huge holes in the lives of many millions more. The virus has infected almost 110 million people, triggered massive job losses, and is costing us over $1 billion every day. Make no mistake — our entire planet has been under a sustained attack for over a year that has been as brutal as any war in our recent history.
The virus is winning
But we have yet to adopt a war footing — there is no coordinated global plan for resourcing PPE, ensuring simultaneous global vaccine coverage, or tackling the damage inflicted upon the global economy. The net results? We have extended the lifespan of this pandemic and given the virus ample room to spread and mutate. The virus is still moving faster than we are. It’s winning.
Step one in moving to a war-footing is to exercise global leadership. Astonishingly, this week sees the first meeting of G7 leaders since the start of the pandemic. The leaders of seven of the world’s most powerful and influential countries are well-equipped to lead the global fight against this virus, and they’ve done it before. They can part ways with the every-country-for-itself approach that has left lower-income countries to fend for themselves and kick off a strategy that is not only more equitable but is also epidemiologically smart. They can lay the first stone in the development of a global strategy that denies the virus any quarter and marshals the unity and common purpose that has foiled many an opponent in decades past.
The tools to win this battle
The leaders of the G7 possess the tools to win this battle — not just the vaccines and medicines to beat the virus, but the means to produce enough to protect the whole world, the logistical capacity to get them to every corner of the planet, and the financial tools to ensure that every country on earth can take the necessary steps to limit further economic damage.
Political will is as powerful as any weapon. In past moments of extreme danger, leaders have thrown away the rulebook to protect citizens and secure victory. That same mindset is needed now. It is a welcome sign that President Joe Biden has called for a “wartime footing” to end the pandemic. Let’s hope that he and fellow leaders use this week’s meeting to grasp that nettle.