Cost of preventing the next pandemic ‘equal to only 2% of Covid’s economic damage-19’ | World News

According to a new analysis, the cost of preventing more pandemics in the next decade by protecting wildlife and forests would amount to only 2% of the estimated financial damage caused by Covid-19.

The researchers said two new viruses a year had spilled from their wildlife hosts to humans over the past century, with the increasing destruction of nature, which means that the risk today is higher than ever.

They said it was vital to crack down on international wildlife trade and forest destruction. Both put wildlife in contact with people and their livestock. But these efforts are currently underfunded, according to experts.

Wildlife graphic

Spending approximately $ 260 billion (£ 200 billion) over 10 years would substantially reduce the risks of another pandemic on the scale of the coronavirus outbreak, the researchers estimate, which is only 2% of the estimated costs of $ 11.5 billion. Covid-19 for the world economy. In addition, spending on protection of wildlife and forests would be almost canceled by another benefit of the action: reducing carbon dioxide emissions that cause the climate crisis.

The key programs scientists are asking for are: much better regulation of wildlife trade, disease surveillance and control in wild and domestic animals, ending the bushmeat trade in China and reducing deforestation by 40% in key places. They said there was a clear link between deforestation and the emergence of viruses, with forest bats, likely reservoirs of the Ebola, Sars and Covid-19 viruses, and tropical forests bordering a “major launch pad” for new viruses. that infect humans.

“It is naive to think of the Covid-19 pandemic as an event that occurs once in a century,” said Professor Andrew Dobson of Princeton University in the United States, who led the analysis. “As with everything we are doing to the environment, they are coming faster and faster, like climate change.”

Professor Stuart Pimm of Duke University in the United States, part of the research team, said: “Investing in prevention may well be the best insurance policy for human health and the global economy in the future. We could stop future pandemics before they start. “

The UN chief of environment welcomed the analysis. “The science couldn’t be clearer,” said Inger Andersen. “As we emerge on the recovery side of Covid-19, we cannot afford a gradual approach to fighting disease. [from wildlife]. Regardless of the final invoice [for coronavirus]We can safely say that action now will save us billions in future costs and avoid the tremendous suffering we continue to see around the world. “

The analysis is the latest expert request for governments to tackle the destruction of the natural world and help prevent future pandemics. This month, a UN report said the world was treating the health and economic symptoms of the coronavirus pandemic, but not the environmental cause. In June, experts said the pandemic was an “SOS signal to human enterprise”; while in April, leading global biodiversity experts said more outbreaks of deadly diseases are likely to occur unless nature is protected.

The analysis, published in the journal Science, was performed by experts in the environment, medicine, economics and conservation. In particular, he noted that wildlife enforcement networks are poorly funded. The network in Southeast Asia has an annual budget of $ 30,000, while the global wildlife trade agency Cites receives $ 6ma a year.

“The wildlife trade is deeply corrupt,” said Dobson. “Some politicians would prefer it not stop in many countries.”

The researchers said that indigenous peoples who depend on wildlife for food should protect themselves from any restrictions.

Ending the bushmeat trade in China was key, the researchers said, and would require nearly $ 20 billion a year. “I was surprised by the number of people employed – there are several million,” said Dobson. He said there were also very few wildlife vets in China: “The troops in the front-line trenches are missing.”

Akanksha Khatri, head of the nature action agenda of the World Economic Forum, said: “Covid-19 has shown us that humans and our economic activity depend on the ecological balance of the planet. If we continue to press against this delicate balance, we do so at our own risk. ”

Stéphane De La Rocque, veterinary expert at the World Health Organization, said the analysis was very necessary and that, after Covid-19, leaders began to understand the issue: “” It is the first time that we have really had a discussion about wild life [and disease] and I realized that we don’t have a surveillance system for wildlife. “