By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
The Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences have put out a joint statement proposing action to be taken in the face of changing priorities brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. The five-point statement is dated 20 March.
The importance of early response
The statement, entitled "Responding to the Pandemic, Lessons for Future Actions and Changing Priorities," emphasizes the necessity of an instantaneous initiation of public health measures in every country. People who test positive for the Covid-19 virus are to be immediately quarantined, alongside the people with whom they have come into contact.
The document also acknowledges the lesson on the importance of early response learned from the coronavirus pandemic. It noted that governments, the media and the scientific community “failed to ensure responsible, transparent and timely communication.”
“We received advance warning of the outbreak a few months before it hit us on a global scale”, the document says. “In the future, we need to better coordinate efforts on both the political and health care fronts to prepare and protect the population.”
Support for the scientific community
While highlighting the essential role of the scientific community, the statement calls for better funding for research at the national and transnational levels.
The statement also advocates for collaboration between international agencies and professional associations.
Protection for the poor and the vulnerable
The Covid-19 pandemic is a common threat that has far-reaching social, economic and political effects. The poor and the vulnerable are often most at risk of suffering injustices in these situations. The document thus enjoins humankind to prove that it is a “Family of Nations” or a “Family of Peoples” with a “common origin and shared destiny.”
“Pandemics represent a threat to the millions of refugees, migrants and forcibly displaced. We implore the global community to intensify efforts to protect the most vulnerable among us,” the statement reads.
Under normal circumstances, the increasing interconnectedness of the world facilitates the exchange of ideas and information, the document says. This leads to the enhancement of the prosperity and wellbeing of many nations. However, demands for national isolation are on the increase as a precautionary measure during the coronavirus outbreak.
The Pontifical Academy recognizes that closing borders might be necessary in some places to halt the spread of the Covid-19 virus. However, it insists that “national borders must not become barriers hindering help across nations. Human resources, equipment, knowledge about best practices, treatments, and supplies must be shared.”
“We insist that global crises demand collective action", the document reads. "The prevention and containment of pandemics is a global public good (Laudato sí) and protecting it requires increased global coordination as well as temporary and adaptive decoupling.”
Freedom, solidarity and compassion
The Pontifical Academy calls for social cohesion irrespective of social, technical or health policy agenda. It advocates for freedom that is coupled with responsibility and solidarity, since “nobody can succeed alone.”
The statement ends with a call for cooperation at a time when social distancing is necessary for health reasons.
“The act of staying at home is an act of profound solidarity. It is to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’.”