Politico: The next pandemic: Rising inequality

29 April 2020
by Charlie Cooper

Dr Catherine Rhodes, our Executive Director, was interviewed by Politico.

International inequalities are another significant worry, and not just for poorer countries, said Catherine Rhodes, executive director of the Cambridge University’s Centre for the Study of Existential Risk.

Speaking at the beginning of April, Rhodes — whose academic discipline requires her to envision the worst-case scenarios — said the impact of coronavirus on developing countries was her biggest concern.

“Even the things that seem simple here, like social distancing, that’s not going to be possible if you’re living in a slum, or a refugee camp, or any intensely crowded setting,” she said.

“What understandably gets overlooked sometimes by governments is that, of course they need to look to what their national citizens are wanting and needing,” she added. “But in an outbreak like this, if we ... just try and limit what gets into our own country, it will just keep circulating.”

The development of a vaccine will, Rhodes predicts, present deep dilemmas for policymakers. If and when we get one, the immediate question will be: how and where to distribute it? “From the point of view of a national government ... its population is not going to be happy if it sees they could have had this vaccine and [the government] let it go to other countries,” Rhodes said.

But getting vaccines to vulnerable populations around the world is precisely, she added, “what a global response will most benefit from.”

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