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Blue Table Webinar: The Pandemic and lessons learned

Earth COVID-19

On 24 March 2021, the Academy launched the Blue Table Webinar Series.  Academic Dean, Amélé Ekué, introduced the first webinar in the series, titled ‘Ethics and the Pandemic', and asked, ‘how can we be proactive? How can we be more prepared and create sustainable communities?'

Dr Ross Upshur, professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health of the University of Toronto detailed lessons learned from past pandemics, including the Plague, Ebola, Zika, MERS and more. He noted the similarities in experiences and themes that did not change throughout time. One of the topics he noted was stigma and the need to separate illness from the healthy. In the past, the ‘prayer of separation' forbade identified cases of leprosy to enter public space and the church; today, we experience the same with mandatory restrictions and lockdown. He also noted that since the revision of the International Health Regulations, there's been an increasing number of Public Health Emergencies of International Concern, the highest level of global alert. With increased frequency, he noted the need to be better prepared and integrate ethics into the response and management of pandemics. He recommended doing so by learning from knowledge translation and implementation science, and making better use of health communications.

Experiences from Kenya echoed some of the same challenges, and Prof Esther Mombo, University of St Pauls in Limuru, Kenya noted the importance of contextualising mitigation strategies, as one size does not fit all. An exemplary case was the implementation of social distancing, which proved a challenge in crowded and informal settlements. She also noted some of the consequences of the pandemic, such as an increase in gender-based violence and hunger. In Kenya, the pandemic also disrupted cultural and religious aspects of life, referring to the inability to attend places of worship or funerals. She concluded by noting that the  ‘pandemic simply brought to the light the existing disparities'.  The experiences for Meera Baindur, Professor of Philosophy at Manipal University and a member of the Pool of Experts were the same in India regarding to the widespread disparities and unequal distribution of negative impacts. However, she also noted the sense of solidarity, and applauded the medical staff that have been, and continue to go way beyond their duty of care. She concluded by noting the need to ‘tackle the existing problems, outside the context of the pandemic and promote social responsibility'.

The next Blue Table Webinar will take place on the 21 April 2021 focused on ‘Ethics and Diversity'.  Please click here for more information.