Although the coronavirus pandemic has become a threat to every country on Earth, world leaders are all at sea — showing few signs that they wish to cooperate genuinely to combat it. By contrast, tens of thousands of researchers from different disciplines and countries joined research and public health efforts to fight COVID 19.
They are working across continents, lending their time, ideas, expertise, equipment and money to the emergency public-health effort. They are providing virus testing facilities; donating personal protective equipment; designing and manufacturing ventilators and other breathing apparatus. And when it comes to the research effort itself, thousands of volunteers from all over the world are enthusiastically signing up to say they are available to do what they can.
These efforts are important because world leaders need to see that international coordination on COVID-19 is thriving. Presidents and prime ministers are moving too slowly, in stark contrast to their response to the financial crisis of 2008, when heads of government, ministries of finance, central banks and other multilateral lending agencies got together and agreed what needed to be done.
Although different funding agencies are collaborating on coronavirus research, there is less consensus at the highest levels of government, and most countries seem to be making independent decisions about how to protect their citizens.
As infections and deaths continue to rise, it is only a matter of time before world leaders will have to step up. They have no choice, because there’s little point in extinguishing the virus in one country when it’s exploding elsewhere. A genuinely global response is needed — and world leaders must follow the fine example being set by researchers.