Australian Economy

Inclusive pandemic plan needed – Taipei Times

As international borders reopen and economies slowly recover, the world is continuing to feel the devastating effects of the global pandemic. Lives and livelihoods continue to be impacted by COVID-19, and it is the world’s poor who are disproportionately affected.

In Australia toward the end of last year, rising vaccination rates and falling numbers of infections gave us the confidence to plan for a return to normal. However, the emergence of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 generated a new wave of health and economic challenges, causing case numbers to surge to unprecedented levels — though fortunately with lower mortality rates compared with previous waves.

The Omicron variant overturned many of our existing virus management norms. However, Australians worked together and, as outbreaks peaked and stabilized, high vaccination and booster rates allowed us to weather the impacts.

While the uncertainties of COVID-19 remain, including the risk of new variants, we remain committed to working cooperatively to maintain our pandemic preparedness and readiness to respond.

No country can eliminate COVID-19, and it is essential that we all work together on a collective response to this global pandemic.

Australia continues to work with partners in our region and globally to provide support, including through COVAX and Australia’s Health Security Initiative, delivering millions of vaccine doses to the Indo-Pacific region.

We also continue to work with international partners to understand lessons from the COVID-19 response, and to take practical steps to reform and strengthen the global health system, including the WHO, to ensure it is fit to respond to the risks of future pandemics.

COVID-19 has shown clearly that a determined, inclusive response is essential, and it is critical that the WHO maintains a close working relationship with all health authorities, including Taiwan’s, and continues to play a strong and transparent role in any response.

Australia’s National Statement to the World Health Assembly (WHA) last year underscored this fact. Taiwan’s COVID-19 management has been world-leading, and it has provided invaluable assistance to Indo-Pacific and other partners in pandemic management and prevention.

As Taiwan enters a critical phase of COVID-19 management at home, it continues to have valuable lessons and experiences it can share with the world.

Ahead of this year’s WHA, we reiterate our call for an inclusive approach to the management of pandemics that know no borders. Only by working together can we strengthen the global community’s preparedness for future pandemics, increase our resilience and prevent such devastating consequences in the future.

Jenny Bloomfield is the Australian representative to Taiwan.

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