In a TIME 100 Talks discussion, EJS Center board member Dr. Raj Panjabi warned against an imminent ‘viral apartheid’ if the world does not urgently change its approach to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. As the founder of Last Mile Health, Dr. Panjabi has worked in Liberia for the past decade, playing a vital role in the fight against Ebola under former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s tenure.
Dr. Panjabi noted during the discussion:
“The idea that a group of people…will get access to vital life-saving tools, and that those will likely be the rich nations and the powerful within those nations, and the poor within those nations and the poorer nations in the world will get excluded from that, is in fact the story of every pandemic that has happened in humanity.”
Dr. Panjabi encouraged countries to take a different approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. He highlighted how the creation of community-based health infrastructure could help tackle two of the primary challenges in the COVID-19 crisis; saving lives and saving the economy:
“One of the opportunities…is to really break this false narrative that’s been created, that we need to save lives or save jobs. We can actually create jobs and save lives.”
By employing “people from the communities most affected to be part of the medical teams” combatting the virus, this double-win can be achieved. To illustrate this point, Dr. Panjabi provided a success story from South Africa, where 28,000 contact tracers were able to screen seven million people in the first month alone.
Watch the discussion with Dr. Panjabi here.