"There's a slight false dichotomy here, in that in some sense, the health of the society has been placed against the economy of the society," Dr. Michael J. Ryan, Executive Director of the World Health Organization's Health Emergencies Programme, said on the debate over prioritizing lives or livelihoods amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking during a weekly virtual meeting of the Forum's COVID Action Platform on 13 May, Ryan added: "If you open up too quickly and in a blind way, you will actually create a second economic shock as well."

Launched in March, the Forum's platform aims to convene leaders from governments and the business community for collective action to protect people’s livelihoods, facilitate business continuity and mobilize support for a global response to COVID-19. To date, more than 1,500 people from more than 1,000 businesses and organizations have joined the platform. To find the latest updates on the Platform, check out our recently-launched highlights blog.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

Since its launch on 11 March, the Forum’s COVID Action Platform has brought together 1,667 stakeholders from 1,106 businesses and organizations to mitigate the risk and impact of the unprecedented global health emergency that is COVID-19.

The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

In addition to Ryan, participants on this week's webinar included: Yuriko Koike, Governor of Tokyo, Japan; Ajay Banga, Chief Executive Officer, Mastercard, USA; Takeshi Niinami, Chief Executive Officer, Suntory Holdings, Japan; Kevin Washington, Chief Executive Officer, YMCA, USA.

Here are some key quotes from the session:

"On the issue of health going forward - I think it's really important that [the] public and private sector stop looking at health, health prevention, health protection and healthcare delivery as a cost in our financial growth model."

—Michael J. Ryan, Executive Director, World Health Organization's Health Emergencies Programme

"I am deeply concerned that when we come out of this crisis, we should not lose track of...focusing not just on the climate and sustainability, but on inclusion."

—Ajay Banga, Chief Executive Officer, Mastercard

"I called upon the people [of Tokyo] to avoid 3 C's: closed places with poor ventilation, crowded places and conversations in close proximity - and to refrain going outside."

—Yuriko Koike, Governor of Tokyo, Japan

"Through these times, I have become more keenly aware stakeholder capitalism is so essential in how we do business."

—Takeshi Niinami, Chief Executive Officer, Suntory Holdings

"What this pandemic has demonstrated, particularly in the US, is...a significant health inequity. Black and brown and vulnerable populations are dying at a much higher rate from this pandemic."

— Kevin Washington, Chief Executive Officer, YMCA