An international multi-disciplinary team said the world must act now to protect wildlife or face the rise of emerging diseases. As the globe remains in the grip of the coronavirus crisis, biologists, ecologists and disease experts said rather than react to emerging pandemics, we must work to prevent them with vaccines and public health measures.

This approach would allow the world to “escape the era of pandemics”.

Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) workshop chairman and EcoHealth Alliance president Peter Daszak said: “There is no great mystery about the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic or of any modern pandemic.

“The same human activities that drive climate change and biodiversity loss also drive pandemic risk through their impacts on our environment.

“Changes in the way we use land, the expansion and intensification of agriculture, and unsustainable trade, production and consumption disrupt nature and increase contact between wildlife, livestock, pathogens and people.

“This is the path to pandemics.

“We can escape the era of pandemics, but this requires a much greater focus on prevention in addition to reaction.”

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The report ‘Escaping the Era of Pandemics’ said the risk of another pandemic could be “significantly lowered” by reducing the human activities that drive the loss of biodiversity, including the greater conservation of protected areas and measures that reduce unsustainable exploitation of high biodiversity regions.

They said these measures would reduce wildlife-livestock-human contact and help prevent the spillover of new diseases.

Mr Daszak added: “The fact that human activity has been able to so fundamentally change our natural environment need not always be a negative outcome.

“It also provides convincing proof of our power to drive the change needed to reduce the risk of future pandemics – while simultaneously benefiting conservation and reducing climate change.”

IPBES experts said the cost of reducing risks to prevent pandemics would be 100 times less than the cost of responding to such pandemics to provide “strong economic incentives for transformative change” as they predicted the likely cost of the COVID-19 crisis at £6-12 trillion globally by July 2020.

Coronavirus has killed 1.18million people globally with 45.1million cases of the invisible killer disease reported.

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