A healthy recovery from COVID-19 means building back better, building back greener.
Globally, there are now more than 22 million reported cases of COVID-19, and 780,000 deaths.
But it’s not just the numbers of cases and deaths that matter. In many countries, the number of patients who need hospitalization and advanced care remains high, putting huge pressure on health systems and affecting the provision of services for other health needs.
Initially, lockdowns enabled many countries to suppress transmission and take the pressure off their health systems.
But lockdowns are not a long-term solution for any country. Continued lockdown would mean having to choose between lives and livelihoods, or between health and the economy.
On the contrary, the pandemic is a reminder that health and the economy are inseparable.
At the same time, we will not – we cannot – go back to the way things were.
Lessons from the Covid 19 Pandemic
Throughout history, outbreaks and pandemics have changed economies and societies. This one will be no different.
In particular, the pandemic has given new impetus to the need to accelerate efforts to respond to climate change.
The pandemic has given us a glimpse of our world as it could be: cleaner skies and rivers.
A healthy recovery from COVID-19 means building back better which means building back greener.
In May, the WHO published “Manifesto for a Healthy and Green Recovery from COVID-19”
with 6 policy prescriptions for protecting nature, investing in water and sanitation, promoting healthy food systems, transitioning to renewable energy, building livable cities, and stopping subsidies on fossil fuels.
In July, “actionables” were added for each of these policy prescriptions, providing 81 concrete steps for policy-makers to build a healthier, fairer, greener world.
A Healthy and Green Recovery from COVID-19
Since July, over 40 million health professionals from 90 countries have sent a letter to G20 leaders to call for a Healthy Recovery from COVID-19.
And we have seen many examples of countries acting to protect lives, livelihoods and the planet on which they depend.
Nairobi, Kenya is improving parks, adding urban forests, building more sidewalks and improving drainage.
Pakistan has set up a “green stimulus” scheme, offering labourers who are out of work as a result of lockdown a chance to earn money by planting trees.
In the United Kingdom, the use of coal, the most polluting form of energy, fell to its lowest level in 250 years.
Spain is becoming one of the world’s fastest decarbonizing nations, with 7 of the country’s 15 coal-fired power stations recently closed.
Portugal has announced it will become coal-free by next year.
Chile has committed to reducing air pollution and black carbon.
Great cities such as Paris have committed to becoming “15 minute cities”, where every service can be easily reached by foot or bike, reducing air pollution and climate change.
Hardship is always an opportunity to learn, to grow and to change.
COVID-19 is a once-in-a-century health crisis. But it also gives us a once-in-a-century opportunity to shape the world our children will inherit – the word we want.
Culled from WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 21 August 2020