MILAN, ITALY - Media OutReach - March 30, 2020 - Covid-19 concerns humanity as a whole. No nation has been spared, and humanity as a whole must unite and face the situation as one if we are defeat this invisible enemy. We must open our metaphorical borders even though our physical ones are being closed daily.
Now is not a time for recrimination and resentment, but for unity and solidarity.
Covid-19 has shown the world the importance of strong healthcare systems and emergency response systems. It has also shown that collaboration between governments, international institutions, civil society, and the private sector are all possible with the right will.
COVID-19 is perhaps the biggest peacetime test for our society; the world will not be the same as we left it in 2019.
For too long now wealthy, developed nations have paid lip service to the difficulties faced in the less wealthy developing nations. For too long we have ignored the plight of our brothers and sisters in places like Africa, where epidemics have struck weakened populations with merciless efficiency. In the past, the devastation of epidemics was confined to the poorer nations of our world, while the wealthier ones were protected by easy access to advanced, often universal, healthcare systems, vaccination programmes, and technology. COVID-19 is an invisible and unwelcome guest that respects no boundary and has swiftly and relentlessly smashed through all barriers, manmade or otherwise.
Cooperation and collaboration among nations is of critical importance now. We must forget our individual nationalities and come together as humans of equal value. What is important today is to create an alliance where we are all kin to each other, a true league of nations that knows no borders and that is open to all and refuses none.
As we now know, perhaps a little too late, healthcare systems are the first line of defence against invisible enemies such as COVID-19. Our healthcare workers and emergency services have been placed on the frontline of this terrible battle and are having to deal with a mass casualty situation that in recent years has only ever been witnessed in war.
We must protect our healthcare professionals; we cannot allow them to take the immense risks that they are taking today in the future. These modern day heroes have on occasion had to make the ultimate sacrifice, often due to a lack of resources and medical materials that leaves them open to contagion. The world was caught off guard this time, but we will not have this excuse once the pandemic is over. We can no longer pretend that cuts in healthcare investments are justified, and we must never, ever leave our medical professionals so cruelly exposed again.
We need to revisit our healthcare models together and apply the most efficient systems. The private medical sector holds the key. Take the example of Lombardy, where the private sector has been contributing immensely towards helping the government cope with this crisis.
Healthcare groups such as the Milan-based Gruppo Ospedaliero San Donato have shown that private healthcare groups can be fully integrated into the public health system. The private healthcare system can play a central role during a crisis by treating a high percentage of patients. Take GSD, for example: although it makes up 13% of the system it has taken on 18% of COVID-19 patients in Lombardy during this emergency. Such figures demonstrate just how efficient the private sector can be in terms of responsiveness when properly integrated into the public system.
I am hopeful that we can learn from our mistakes. In a post COVID-19 world, we will have no choice, as the alternative does not bear consideration.
Yet when I think of the human capacity for love and altruism, I am filled with hope for the future. When I think of those I have seen in the developing world struggling for life against all odds, and see it happening today in the developed world, I remember that it is not the weakness or cruelty or venality of people that comes out in times of crisis, but the generosity, humanity, and solidarity that occurs when we might least expect it.