Their pandemic plans were built on a litany of miscalculations and false assumptions. European leaders boasted of the superiority of their world-class health systems but had weakened them with a decade of cutbacks. When Covid-19 arrived, those systems were unable to test widely enough to see the peak coming — or to guarantee the safety of health care workers after it hit.

Accountability mechanisms proved toothless. Thousands of pages of national pandemic planning turned out to be little more than exercises in bureaucratic busy work. Officials in some countries barely consulted their plans; in other countries, leaders ignored warnings about how quickly a virus could spread.

European Union checks of each country’s readiness had become rituals of self-congratulation. Mathematical models used to predict pandemic spreads — and to shape government policy — fed a false sense of security.

National stockpiles of medical supplies were revealed to exist mostly on paper, consisting in large part of “just in time” contracts with manufacturers in China.