COVID-19: Our policy recommendations

Protect

1. We urge the UK Government to sustain their support to all existing health and health-related programmes (including WASH, SRHR and nutrition), including through supporting the resilience of health systems, ensuring a continued supply of all essential medicines and commodities, and ability to maintain basic essential services to prevent further, indirect, loss of lives. 


2. We urge the UK Government to play an active role in encouraging governments that are recipients of UK Aid and beyond to uphold dignity and human rights for all people throughout the COVID-19 crisis. This should include a zero tolerance approach in the public sector and wider society to any form of discrimination or stigmatisation against any groups in society, including on the grounds of gender, age, disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, migratory status or national origin. 


3. We urge the UK Government to recognise the disproportionate impact COVID-19 is having on older people and other vulnerable groups globally and ensure that they are not discriminated against on the basis of their age in accessing appropriate information, prevention measures, medical treatment, social care and support. We urge the UK Government to ensure an inclusive global response that prioritises the most marginalised and vulnerable populations, recognising intersectional inequalities, including, but not exclusively, age, health status, poverty, geography, gender, race, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity, that will drive vulnerability to the impact of COVID-19, and ensure that any data used and gathered is disaggregated to reflect this and enable a targeted response. We also urge the UK Government to ensure protection, safeguarding from gender-based violence and social welfare services remain open and central to preparedness and response to COVID-19, that they are accessible to the most vulnerable groups including by switching to remote forms of provision, and that they are funded adequately throughout all stages of response. 


4. The year ahead saw a number of key summits and opportunities for the UK Government to show their continued commitment to essential health interventions, such as immunisation (through Gavi), nutrition (through the Nutrition for Growth Summit), and malaria and NTDs (through the Kigali Summit), which are now all in danger of being impacted by the Covid-19 crisis. We urge the UK Government to maintain their role as a leading donor for all of these interventions and to incentivise support from other donors for successful replenishments. 


Expand

 1. We urge the UK Government to scale up support to strengthen health systems in low and middle income countries, as well as ensuring that humanitarian responses strengthen rather than undermine local health systems. 


2. We urge the UK Government to work with WHO and governments to support and enable them to remove all financial barriers to people accessing healthcare and deliver free testing and treatment to all that need it. We urge the UK Government to instruct the CDC to enable private sector health companies they have invested in to align to the national effort including by providing free treatment and care, whilst sacrificing profits. If necessary, and where CDC is a direct stakeholder, the CDC could pass their stake in private hospitals and other relevant companies to national governments with the requirement they be used for public use. 


3. We urge the UK Government to support a bold and dramatic scale-up of frontline health workers, as well as ensuring any public spending caps, including wage bill ceilings are immediately removed from low and middle income countries. We urge the UK Government to encourage and help finance low and middle income governments to recruit and provide refresher training to any willing trained but currently unemployed or retired health workers, as well as ensure their safe and decent working conditions. 


4. We urge the UK Government to make investments in community-based strategies, to improve outreach and education, dissemination of messages, contract tracing, surveillance, WASH, access to nutritious foods, address stigmatisation, social distancing and preparedness as well as setting up of community-based testing centres with appropriate supply of tests. 


5. We urge the UK Government to step up their investment in WASH, particularly hygiene behaviour change, including handwashing, which significantly helps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In the short-term, they must provide rapid, flexible funding and technical assistance to government-led efforts to promote good hygiene and build WASH systems. 


6. We urge the UK Government to ensure gender-responsive leadership, noting the particular vulnerabilities that both men, women and gender nonconfirming and binary populations face due to COVID-19. This means including women in health security and response decision-making

structures and public discourse, protecting frontline health workers and unpaid caregivers (most of whom are women), and collecting/analysing data that is sex-disaggregated. 


7. We urge the UK Government to invest in strategies to manage the secondary effects of the pandemic including classifying sexual and reproductive health services, including contraceptive, safe abortion services and HIV medication, as essential health services and ensuring their inclusion in basic packages of health services provided as countries respond to COVID-19. If SRH services are not provided in times of crisis, subsequent health outcomes and strains on the health system can be severe. 

Improve

1. We urge the UK Government to support the proposal from the President and Minister of Health of Costa Rica for the WHO to create a global pool for rights in COVID-19 related technologies for the detection, prevention, control and treatment of the COVID-19 pandemic. 


2. As a donor country and board member of CEPI, the UK should particularly support CEPI’s continued efforts to ensure equitable access to vaccines globally. We also call on the UK Government to impose public interest conditions (as outlined in the attached briefing) on all UK funding committed to developing a vaccine for COVID-19 and any other potential COVID-19 treatments and diagnostics. 


3. We urge the UK Government to support the World Health Organisation to take a leadership role responding to Covid-19 and in post-crisis health systems strengthening. We urge the UK Government to promote collaboration and inclusiveness (including recognising the role of civil society) within global COVID-19 response mechanisms, such as the joint inter-agency UN meeting on COVID-19. We also urge the UK Government to use other existing multilaterals to respond to Covid-19 (whilst ensuring funding and support for other infectious diseases is not negatively impacted), including the Global Fund and Gavi to channel resources to support the most vulnerable, CEPI and UNITAID to develop new tools, and GPEI for surveillance. 


4. We urge the UK Government to take an integrated approach to COVID19. This should be reflected in the membership of intergovernmental response groups and mechanisms, which should include relevant and diverse expertise, including across WASH, gender and nutrition, as well as scientists, anthropologists and legal experts. The UK Government should also support LMIC governments to take a similar cross-ministerial and cross-sectoral approach. 


5. We urge the UK Government to ensure meaningful engagement of civil society and communities in the planning, delivery, monitoring and evaluation of the Covid-19 response, including (but not limited to) the Action for Global Health Network and Bond, and support government responses to incorporate and respond to the voices of all population groups affected by the outbreak and its secondary impacts.