The World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has promised that an independent review of the organization’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic will begin at the “earliest appropriate” time.
Speaking to the annual meeting of the World Health Assembly on Monday, Tedros said the WHO had “lessons to learn” and that the body “must examine its response” to the global health crisis.
He promised that the WHO was committed to “transparency” and “accountability” following criticisms of the organization’s handling of the pandemic, particularly from the Donald Trump administration, which cut its funding last month, triggering international criticism.
Trump has accused the WHO of acting in a “China-centric” manner and of “covering up” information about the spread of the Covid-19 infection at Beijing’s command. Both the WHO and China have rejected those claims. On Monday, Tedros said that the organization had “sounded the alarm early” and “sounded it often” as the virus spread around the world.
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While the WHO eventually declared a pandemic on March 11, after it had spread to more than 100 countries, it had been providing assurance that there was “no evidence” of human-to-human spread as late as mid-January – and in February, Tedros warned there was no need for travel bans as the spread beyond China was “minimal and slow.”
The WHO chief said Monday that the “risk [from Covid-19] remains high” and there is a “long road to travel” to beat the virus. Tedros also warned that countries moving too quickly to lift measures designed to curb the spread of the infection run the risk of handicapping their own recovery from the crisis.
US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told the virtual meeting that the WHO’s slow response to the crisis “cost many lives,” and that the organization needs to be made more effective.
WHO’s oversight body also said on Monday that it was urging states to consider a “stepped level of alerts” before declaring a global emergency.