As Covid and H3N2 flu cases rise, here’s how India can help build global resilience

Source: The post is based on the article “As Covid and H3N2 flu cases rise, here’s how India can help build global resiliencepublished in the Indian Express on 23rd March 2023.

Syllabus: GS – 2: Issues relating to the development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health.

Relevance: About pandemic treaty.

News: The recent rise in Covid-19 cases and ongoing influenza outbreaks have highlighted the need for a pandemic treaty.

About health risks at present

About the current landscape of Covid-19: XBB.1.5 has been reported from 38 countries and declared a variant of interest (VOI) by the WHO.

The Covid XBB 1.16 variant is fuelling the surge. India witnessed nearly a three-fold rise in cases over the last fortnight. So far, it has not caused any mortality in India. XXBB 1.16 is nearly one-and-a-half times of XBB.1.5. Thus making it an aggressive variant with immune escape properties.

The surge of H3N2 Influenza A cases:

Read here: H3N2: What is this virus and how can it be prevented from spreading

What is the need for the pandemic treaty?

Limitations of the International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005: Limitations like countries not reporting cases in time and international agencies not responding adequately was exposed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Emergence and re-emergence of diseases: Emergence and re-emergence of diseases of animal origin highlighted the need for local, national and global governance to combat diseases.

Read more: Need for a Global Pandemic Treaty – Explained, pointwise

About the debate for a pandemic treaty

World Health Assembly set off a global process in 2021. An intergovernmental negotiating body (INB) that includes WHO’s 194 countries is steering this process.

At the same time, more than 300 amendments to the IHR is also being discussed. The World Health Assembly in 2024 is expected to ratify these and set a “comprehensive, complementary and synergistic set of global health agreements”.

What is the pandemic treaty?

Read here: WHO publishes zero-draft of pandemic treaty: Equity, IPR take centre stage

How India can help in developing global health resilience?

Being the president of the G20 group of countries India has a significant role in developing global health resilience. India is working on One Health Mission. The G20 is already engaged with One Health (OH) issues.

What should be done to ensure an equitable pandemic treaty?

Appropriate use, recognition, and protection of indigenous knowledge: This will traditionally recognise the interconnectedness of human, non-human and ecosystem health.

Work on the inclusion of women and minority groups: The world should stress on substantive and equitable inclusion of women and minority groups, including racial, ethnic and sexual minorities. This is because of the traditionally under-represented groups in treaty design and implementation.

Use of health equity impact and gender-based analysis: This is to identify and develop mitigation plans for the potentially inequitable impact of epidemics.

What India should do to ensure health resilience?

Promote the establishment of OH infrastructure: This will need an integrated OH surveillance system, building and nurturing partnerships to connect and share data on infectious pathogens and related risk factors.

Work on pandemic preparedness: This includes integrating monitoring and assessment into the state and district governance architecture. As this will ensure an inter-/ transdisciplinary OH evaluation framework and methodology, including metrics for measuring success.

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