Jamaican creates global COVID-19 task force


Jamaican creates global COVID-19 task force

Rhodes scholar Dr David Walcott creates Shapers Against CoVID

Business editor

Friday, April 03, 2020

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Dr David Walcott, a Jamaican entrepreneur and doctor recently founded and convened Shapers Against CoVID an international task force of more than 250 young people from across some 60 countries across the globe to drive action against COVID-19.

“We've been doing everything from sharing knowledge to resourcing governments to building ICU [intensive care unit] machines and ventilators”, Walcott told the Jamaica Observer.

Walcott, a Jamaican Rhodes scholar from 2011, said he issued a global call to young, successful people in his network around the world and, within 24 hours, had convened a group of more than 250 young individuals in over 60 countries.

This was achieved about two weeks before the World Health Organization (WHO ) had declared a pandemic.

“I've always seen myself as having global responsibility and seeking to put Jamaica on the map by being an integral part of global activity that is seeking to drive impact in our world. Most Jamaicans don't get the opportunity to do this, and I'm seeking to fight the global fight and wave the Jamaican flag high,” Walcott told the Caribbean Business Report.

As the founder of the Shapers movement, Walcott has been globally recognised for pulling the group together as a health expert and champion of global health care.

In explaing his role, Walcott said, “I put out a global call inviting young, passionate individuals around the world to join a movement to battle COVID. I did this through the youth arm of the World Economic Forum – the most powerful multi-stakeholder institution in the world - the Global Shapers community. This is a group of young changemakers around the world, many of whom are inventors, investors, presidents, and global influencers.

“Our task force includes individuals who work at several Fortune 500 companies, government executives, and members of critical institutions to the fight such as the WHO [World Health Organization],” Walcott said.

The original message he put out is as follows:

Dear all,

As many of us know, we're now facing an imminent pandemic – COVID-19 will soon be officially deemed a pandemic and this entire phenomenon is something that we've never seen before (in terms of the immediate clinical, socioeconomic and political consequences at scale). I believe we all have an injunction to act in response to this global threat, particularly given our platform and voice.

“Regardless of any individual perspective or data on the virus (its absolute mortality rates etc), I believe that our collective mission to drive dialogue, action, and change is called upon in a non-trivial way and would like to invite a group of us to rise to the call and think through how we can best do our part in response to this. It doesn't necessarily mean mobilising a huge task force, and could be as simple as a shared initiative to increase levels of understanding and health literacy surrounding the threat, but I do think we face a collective responsibility.

“Clearly we are all busy, and I don't intend for this to be time-consuming — but a little action could go a long way if we sing in chorus. If anyone is interested in joining the force, please let me know.

“Again, this will not be a long brainstorming exercise where nothing is done, it's more about pulling together a quick plan and focusing on rapid, effective execution. We simply want to do effective things that will move the needle in their own way.

“Please let me know if you are interested.”

Walcott said he put out the global call as “I felt like a sense of responsible awareness needed to be driven, and I had the networks through the World Economic forum. Ultimately, we were able to reach over 10,000 young individuals in over 150 countries and territories.”

He said he spotted the imminent pandemonium because he has a particularly keen insight for health trends in this space as an Oxford-trained immunologist and global health expert. He had completed a PhD in Immunology where he studied viruses and other pathogens, and has travelled to more than 60 countries looking at their health care systems and building a databank of insights and relationships.


The task force has already had significant impact.

Within 24 hours of his message, the group had more than 250 individuals in a task force discussing COVID-19 and sharing best practices and insights with their communities.

The group launched a #PreventionOverPanic global awareness campaign encouraging prevention over panic which was reposted over 350 times in over 60 countries.

The group also got its communities to mobilise relatively quickly to share insights, and drive collective action around the world, driving impact on all continents. Examples include:

In Africa, the group organised a virtual dialogue around COVID-19 with foremost experts in Abuja, capital of Nigeria, and also organised a virtual dialogue around the socio-economic implications of COVID-19 in Yaounde, Cameroon.

In Asia, the group organised a series of resource distribution efforts where masks, etc were given out to the community in Indore, India, while in Shanghai, China the group launched the #CoronavirusNotChinavirus campaign that mobilised against discrimination in a global display of empathy and solidarity.

In North America the group developed and shared a 10-point action plan for District of Columbia residents to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and support their local community, while in several Caribbean islands there has been consultation around COVID-19 management and resourcing for the region.

In Europe, the group launched an initiative to design prefabricated, pre-finished intensive care PODs that are easy to deploy in Milan, Italy. In Zurich, Switzerland, the group communicated basic preventative measures that can halt the spread of the virus and protect those most vulnerable through comedy. And in Copenhagen, the group organised a talk with the WHO speaking to questions on the virus's impact on young people in Europe and on how youth can respond.

In South America, the group provided assistance, along with the Colombian Government, to create anti-COVID-19 policy and mental health initiatives. They also resourced several governments with PPE (personal protective equipment) such as masks, protective gear, etc.

Walcott is currently working with the World Economic Forum to help them design their COVID-19 strategy in partnership with the WHO, including interviewing individuals from Wuhan and Italy.

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