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From Brazil to the Philippines, secretive governments across the world are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by covering up data and bypassing public procurement rules, undermining trust in health systems, fuelling anti-vaxxers and putting immunization campaigns at risk.

Clandestine contracts for medical goods and services have become the norm in many countries, while data on COVID-19 cases and deaths has been manipulated and underreported.

Authorities and heads of states have used the pandemic as an opportunity to gut public bodies dedicated to openness and communication, with the worst offenders forming a rogues' gallery of coronavirus offenders.

In the global South, the repercussions for already struggling health and governance systems could be catastrophic.

Corruption outbreak

This is a tale of two pandemics, says Jonathan Cushing, therapeutic classification lasix who leads on global health at the anti-corruption non-profit Transparency International.

"You have COVID-19 and then what we've seen over the past year is this lack of transparency — the utilisation of direct procurement legislation because of the emergency needs at the time," Cushing tells SciDev.Net.

"We've seen repeated cases of corruption, and that is the second pandemic in many ways."

Malpractice, says Cushing, has been reported "around the world, in the Philippines, in Uganda, we've seen cases raised in Kenya, Latin America as well".

As the pandemic has progressed, we've seen the shift from the rush to buy [personal protective equipment] and ventilators … to the procurement of vaccines. What we're seeing now is a complete lack of transparency."

Jonathan Cushing, Anti-Corruption Non-Orofit Transparency International.

Tanzanian President John Magufuli may have been a victim of his own refusal to acknowledge the presence and seriousness of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

In June, Magufuli declared that "the corona disease has been eliminated by God", leaving Tanzania "coronavirus-free". The government stopped publishing data on case numbers, while disease surveillance and advocacy wound down.

Magufuli's death — officially from heart problems, but widely believed to be connected with COVID-19 — was announced on 17 March.

Residents of Tanzania's largest city, Dar es Salaam, told SciDev.Netit remained to be seen whether Tanzania's government would reverse Magufuli's increasingly authoritarian policies. But new president Samia Suluhu Hassan has already marked a departure from her predecessor, pledging to form a scientific advisory committee on COVID-19.



Posted in: Disease/Infection News | Healthcare News

Tags: Coronavirus, Health Systems, Heart, Pandemic, Personal Protective Equipment, SARS, SARS-CoV-2, Virus, Wound

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