Time to prepare for next pandemic, Kamala Harris tells UN

US vice president says mankind needs better plan for handling fast-spreading diseases

US Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday said the international response to Covid-19 was “not nearly good enough” and urged major powers to start preparing for the next pandemic.

In a video message at a private UN meeting, Ms Harris said the world had been caught unprepared by the coronavirus and should boost spending on science and hospitals, and be able to produce face masks and other protective gear much faster.

IUS President Joe Biden's administration will mark its first 100 days in office this week.

America is making progress on vaccinations but many nations are struggling to acquire enough shots.

“We have learnt so much this year about pandemic preparedness and response,” Ms Harris said at talks co-hosted by the US, Argentina, Japan, Norway and South Africa.

“We have been reminded that the status quo is not nearly good enough and that innovation is indeed the path forward.”

Ms Harris called for more spending on health systems and for a “set of triggers” to start international disease control as soon as fast-spreading new pathogens are detected.

"We need surge capacity in every region so that every country can access personal protective equipment, vaccines and tests," the Democrat said in her second UN address since her inauguration.

The previous administration of president Donald Trump, a Republican, was criticised for disbanding in May 2018 a White House unit for tackling global health emergencies. It was formed in 2015 during the Obama administration.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also addressed the online meeting, calling for more co-operation between states on identifying disease threats and monitoring them carefully, spokesman Farhan Haq said.

"As well as urgently tackling the pandemic at hand, we need to build a global system that deals with problems before they turn into catastrophes," Mr  Haq said.

“We need a system that can quickly produce more supplies and stage them around the world without hesitation.”

Covid-19 has claimed more than 3 million lives globally and infected about 150 million since it was discovered in China at the end of 2019.

Vaccines are making gains against the pathogen in some regions, but the emergence of variant strains and loosening of restrictions has led to recent deadly surges in India, Thailand, Brazil and elsewhere.

India set a global record for daily coronavirus cases for a fifth straight day on Monday.

There are severe shortages of hospital beds, oxygen and medicines, leading to scenes of people dying outside treatment centres and overwhelmed crematoriums and cemeteries.