COVID-19 response was a series of global failures - report

An independent panel, led by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, has slammed China and the World Health Organisation (WHO) for its handling of COVID-19.

The report, published on Tuesday found Chinese officials didn't do enough to try to contain the virus when it first emerged.

And the WHO didn't act quickly enough to declare a global emergency, once the virus began to spread. 

The panel also found the world wasn't prepared for a pandemic - which has already killed two million people - and must do better.

"These cases and deaths are causing untold grief to families and avoidable stresses on health workers and systems, co-chair Helen Clark said.

"Basic measures like testing, contact tracing, isolation, physical distancing, and wearing masks all have a role to play.

"We urge all governments to step up and protect the lives of their citizens and to support and promote the public health measures proven to work."

There has been "a wholesale failure to take seriously the existential risk posed by pandemic threat to humanity," the report writes.

It also says China didn't do enough to try and contain the virus initially and other countries failed to take it seriously once it spread.

On top of that, it took months for the WHO to even call it a pandemic.

Countries falsely prioritised their economies, failed to implement basic public health measures, and the panel found the WHO is "underpowered to do the job expected of it".

Looking to the future, it also found the vaccine rollout is exacerbating global inequality with the head of the WHO saying the world is on the brink of a "catastrophic moral failure".

"And the price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world's poorest countries," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday.

It all comes down to money.

"Most manufacturers have prioritised regulatory approvals in rich countries where the profits are highest," Ghebreyesus said.

But even with so much room for improvement, the panel is concerned little will change.

The panel says lives can be saved with decisive and effective action.

Its recommendations will be out in May.