As the effects of the pandemic continue the world over and the second wave moves through Europe, we have a choice to make. Will we simply respond to the present situation or do we take a moment to see what’s there for us in the future? 

COVID-19 is neither the first nor the last health emergency we will face. Recognising this, we can and must say ‘never again’. We must do our utmost to identify the next health threat before it comes an epidemic or a pandemic, and if it does, recover in a way that does not implode health, economic and social inequalities. 

How do we go about it? We must share lessons learned now so that we do not repeat them again. We must also force ourselves to think and act differently. Beyond the search for a vaccine to suppress this crisis, our thoughts must turn to what we can do for the next. What have we learned from this current crisis to inform our understanding of future health emergencies? How do we ensure that we are better prepared next time? 

We need creative minds from outside and inside the traditional public health system. Experts in various fields are all critical players in the promotion and protection of global public health. We must foster collaborations across society and between sectors whereby the outcomes and benefits will be made accessible to all. Imagine if we had an early warning system that could help us, for instance, to identify the medical, environmental and behavioral trends that indicated an impending health threat. The type of emerging risk can all be better understood with the use of data. There are also many insights we can make use of from our own personal experiences of COVID-19 and with the help of experts we can tell which intervention measures are most effective. Furthermore, economists could also come up with new ideas to ensure that the road to recovery does not intensify the existing inequalities in the process. 

It is up to us, human beings, to ensure that a pandemic like the coronavirus never happens again. We all have the opportunity to strive not to face another crisis that is still disrupting and destroying lives as well as livelihoods. Humanity has the means to prevent this so let’s not sit on it.