An analysis has found that spending $260 billion over the coming decade would substantally reduce the chances of another pandemic on the scale of the Covid-19 outbreak. That's just 2 percent of the $11.5 trillion the coronavirus pandemic is thought to have cost the global economy, according to an analysis published in the journal Science. Experts in the fields of medicine, economics, the environment and conservation compiled the report and it states that two viruses per year have spilled from their natural hosts into humans over the past century. Today the risks are much higher due to the ongoing destruction of nature.
Wildlife protection needs to be prioritized in the future, particularly reducing deforestation and regulating the international trade in animals. Both have brought humans and livestock into even greater contact with wildlife which has raised the chances of pathogen transmission. The report remarks that tropical forest edges in particular are a major launch pad for novel human viruses and contact with wildlife is more likely when 25 percent of original forest cover is lost. It goes on to state that "the clear link between deforestation and virus emergence suggests that a major effort to retain intact forest cover would have a large return on investment even if its only benefit was to reduce virus emergence events". Reducing deforestation would of course have an extra benefit: reducing CO2 levels that are fuelling the climate crisis.
Alongside saving forests, the report recommended several additional measures such as more effective early detection and control, an end to wild meat consumption in China and reducing disease spillover via livestock. Discussions about phasing out China's $20 billion wildlife farming sector are ongoing and it is thought to employ around 15 million people. The efforts are being justified by the fact that the industry creates risks for disease emergence while health and safely regulations are sorely lacking. The report states that laws banning the national and international trade of high-risk reservoir species are necessary and that regulations must keep animals such as primates, bats, pangolins, civets and rodents out of markets and away from human consumption.