Global Pathfinder Initiative


Learning Together

When COVID-19 began spreading globally, governments faced the enormous task of responding to a novel pandemic. There was no guidebook offering step-by-step instructions; even scientists and public health experts had much to learn about the new disease. Governments around the world tried a variety of approaches to manage the pandemic; looking back, we can evaluate what worked well and what didn't, and use these lessons to guide our ongoing response to COVID-19, as well as similar outbreaks in the future.

A number of governments have demonstrated exemplary leadership in decision-making, communication and coordination. 

During a pandemic when time wasted could mean lives lost, it’s critical that countries learn from each others’ successes and failures. From testing to contact tracing, communicating with the public and knowing when to heighten or ease public health orders, the COVID-19 pandemic response is complex. 

The Global Pathfinder Initiative examines early pandemic response best practices of countries around the world in hopes that we can learn from each other, respond effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic and ultimately save lives.

Pandemic pioneers

Many countries swiftly realized the importance of proactivity and creativity in pandemic response: the Rwandan government repurposed HIV testing facilities for COVID-19 testing and Uganda closed international borders and imposed a mandatory quarantine for travelers before the country had any confirmed COVID-19 cases. Vietnam worked hard to stay ahead of rumors and misinformation by communicating frequently with residents, publishing an average of 127 articles daily for seven days on 13 of the most popular news outlets.

In this report, Sir Michael Barber and Dato Sri Idris Jala share rich examples of countries whose noteworthy actions continue to provide an example for the world.

Where do we go from here?

We hope to assist those responsible for the continuing response to COVID-19. These conclusions may also assist countries in ensuring preparedness for future pandemics.

While the initial pandemic response phase is behind us, there is much work ahead as we continue with ongoing pandemic response; the lessons summarized in this report (best practices for testing, communicating with the public, etc.) are still relevant even in these later phases of the pandemic. Additionally, the information shared in this report offers guidance not only for the situation at hand, but also for disease outbreaks in the future.

Read the report to learn about pathfinders during the early pandemic, how their approaches helped manage the COVID-19 crisis and how these lessons can benefit us today – and in the future. For more content, please visit

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