ICAO contributes to this new WHO initiative to improve pandemic preparedness

The following article was written by ICAO with materials provided by the WHO.

To help countries better prepare for future pandemics, ICAO contributed to a new initiative that was launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) to provide guidance on integrated planning for “responding to any respiratory pathogen such as influenza or coronaviruses.” The new Preparedness and Resilience for Emerging Threats Initiative, or PRET, incorporates the latest tools and approaches for shared learning and collective action established during the COVID-19 pandemic and other recent public health emergencies.

The World Health Organization leads and champions global efforts to achieve better health for all. By connecting countries, people and partners, they strive to give everyone, everywhere an equal chance at a safe and healthy life.

Through the initiative, WHO will use a mode of transmission approach to guide countries in pandemic planning, given that many capacities and capabilities are common among groups of pathogens. PRET answers the call for technical guidance and support for promoting and strengthening integrated preparedness and response, as outlined in World Health Assembly resolutions.

ICAO has cooperated with the WHO on health-issues related to aviation for decades. This cooperation focuses on the aviation aspects of pandemic response, including issues related to coordination and collaboration, preparedness planning, mitigating transmission,  managing suspected cases on board, maintaining inflight safety and facilitating border crossing.

The COVID-19 pandemic and other health emergencies have shown that countries need to be operationally ready to respond to infectious disease threats, with tailored preparedness plans in hand and better coordination and collaboration with other sectors such as aviation, customs and immigration, other modes of transport and agriculture.

Preparedness, prevention, and response activities must not be the province of the health sector alone,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Just as health emergencies have impacts across many sectors, so must our preparedness and response efforts span sectors, disciplines and pathogens. It is critical, too, that community engagement and equity are the centre of our efforts, especially for those populations that are marginalized and most at risk.”

“Assuring a safe, sustainable, and resilient recovery for international air services is at the heart of ICAO’s vision for the future of the global flight network,” remarked Dr. Ansa Jordaan, ICAO’s Chief of Aviation Medicine, who led ICAO’s contributions to this initiative. “The WHO’s Preparedness and Resilience for Emerging Threats Initiative will help mitigate both the health impacts of future health emergencies, and prevent the catastrophic effects on air connectivity that were seen in the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative is an illustration of the crucial importance of ICAO’s highly valued collaboration (involving not only the CAPSCA programme, but various other sections within ICAO) with the WHO towards assisting governments in their efforts to achieve a globally coordinated response to these global challenges.”

PRET is an evolution in WHO’s approach to pandemic preparedness through the application of a mode of transmission lens, rather than a focus on specific diseases. WHO will continue to develop and disseminate guidance on specific diseases as needed.

The PRET Initiative ushers in a new era for pandemic preparedness and represents an evolution of WHO’s core activities to support all Member States in strengthening health emergency preparedness, prevention, and response capacities and capabilities. The initiative can also serve to operationalize the objectives and provisions of the Pandemic Accord, which is currently being negotiated by WHO Member States.

Call to Action

Announcing the PRET initiative, the WHO also issued a Call to Action to “accelerate preparedness for pandemics and emerging threats globally.” This Call to Action, and the WHO’s PRET announcement in full, are available here. All of ICAO’s COVID-19-related guidance to states, operators, and the community are freely available through this dedicated portal.




aviation recoveryCOVID-19pandemic responseWHOWorld Health Organization