Can Europe invest now to avoid future lockdowns?

As heads of state and international organisations meet at the Paris Peace Forum, we ask whether investing in treatments now could help end this crisis.

The Liverpool Street underground station in London, almost empty.

Credit: Ben Garratt / Unsplash

Many countries across Europe have reintroduced restrictions or lockdowns to supress another wave of Covid-19. 

Throughout Europe, countries have gone into new lockdowns. The Covid-19 pandemic is a social and an economic crisis just as much as it is a health crisis. The costs are too great for countries to be stuck in an endless cycle of lockdowns.

Lives and livelihoods

Lockdowns cause short-term economic losses but with the aim of getting the virus under control more quickly and allowing the economy to get back to normal sooner. There are no easy answers, but the economic costs of a prolonged pandemic are thought to be higher than the costs of a lockdown.

But lockdowns are only a short-term solution to buy more time and keep outbreaks under control. Vaccines, treatments and tests are the long-term solutions to ending the pandemic.

While recent results from vaccine trials are causes for optimism, that is only one of the tools needed. Better tests and treatments must be available to tackle outbreaks and stop further lockdowns.

"The time for talking is over. If we don’t act now, there will be a longer, much tougher road ahead. Societies around the world can only take so much of this. We have to change our approach, we have to change the fundamentals of this epidemic. There is a way to do this, there is an exit strategy. It is through the ACT-Accelerator."
Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome

The time to act is now

We need tests to provide a quicker and more accurate diagnosis of Covid-19, helping to stop its spread, and a greater range of treatments for those with mild to severe symptoms, to save lives and help reduce the burden on national health systems.

We need a range of treatments for Covid-19 to cover all stages of the disease.

So far, dexamethasone is the only drug which has been shown to reduce mortality in hospitalised patients.

Early clinical trial results for another type of drug, monoclonal antibodies, have also shown encouraging signs – researchers are hoping to know whether these new drugs are effective by the end of the year. 

But researchers have found that two other drugs that have been widely talked about, hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir, do not reduce the risk of dying of Covid-19 or the length of time people need to stay in hospital.

A global solution

Researchers are working at unprecedented speed to develop Covid-19 treatments, but they need more support. Of the total funding of $6.6 billion needed for therapeutics through the end of 2021, $750 million is an immediate need to intensify efforts on monoclonal antibodies.

It’s an investment that relies on countries and international organisations showing leadership, pooling resources together and acknowledging that this crisis can only be overcome if we act together.

"The world is watching, the world knows these diagnostics, treatments and vaccines will come. The world will not forgive us if we do not make them available to everyone."
Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome