A report has emerged claiming that actions taken in preventing the next pandemic could cost just 2% of the current COVID-19 economic damage.
Researchers have said that two new strains of virus are transferred from wildlife hosts to humans each year, with environmental damage exacerbating the rate in which viruses are spreading.
The report comes from the journal of Science, and claims that investments totalling billions into preventative measures for the transmission of viruses in the future could save the world’s economy trillions.
Its preliminary numbers state that investments of $26 billion each year into preventative measures are dwarfed by the COVID-19 pandemic’s total damage bill of $11.5 trillion.
- The $26 billion annually invested into preventative measures would, according to the authors of the report, be channeled in the following way:
- $19.4 billion into nding the wild meat trade across the Asian continent
- $5.6 billion for reducing deforestation by 40% in vulnerable regions
- $664 million into reducing disease transmission with livestock
- $500 million to monitoring the wildlife trade sector
- $248 million for early disease detection and control measures
Deforestation, according to the report, plays a key role in the transmission of viruses between species. Forest bats have transmitted the Ebola, Sars and COVID-19 viruses and are said to provide a “major launchpad” for potentially more damaging viruses in the future.
Cutting down on deforestation also has notable impacts for the local environment, as well as climate considerations.
“Zoonotic viruses infect people directly most often when they handle live primates, bats and other wildlife (or their meat),” the authors write. “The risks are higher than ever, as increasingly intimate associations between humans and wildlife disease reservoirs accelerate the potential for viruses to spread globally.”
Lead author of the report, Professor Andrew Dobson of Princeton University has said that “it’s naive to think of the COVID-19 pandemic as a once in a century event.”
“As with anything we’re doing to the environment, they’re coming faster and faster, just like climate change.”
Deforestation has been identified as one of the leading contributors to cross-species transmission of viruses, as native wildlife lose habitats, and move into new areas where they could be
Professor Stuart Pimm, part of the report’s research team added that “investment 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,” he said.
The United Nations has responded to the publication of the report, with its environment chief, Inger Anderson stating that “the science could not be clearler.”
“As we emerge on the recovery side of COVID-19, we cannot afford a piecemeal approach to tackling diseases [from wildlife]. Irrespective of the final bill [for coronavirus], we can say with certainty that action now will save us billions in future costs, and avoid the tremendous suffering that we continue to see around the world.”
Head of the World Economic Forum’s nature action agenda, Akanksha Khatri has said that “COVID-19 has shown us that human beings and our economic activity depend on the planet’s ecological balance.”
“If we continue to push against this delicate balance, we do so at our peril,” Khattri concluded.
Stephane De La Rocque of the World Health Organisation added that “it is the first time that we really have had a discussion about wifelife [and disease] and realised we have no surveillance system for wildlife.”