Health

WHO’s handling of Covid-19 set to go under the microscope

By Antonio Broto

Geneva, May 19 (efe-epa).- The World Health Organization’s annual general assembly ended Tuesday with a consensus on the need for an investigation into the international body’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic after two days of discussions marked by heavy criticism from the United States and support from other nations.

Bringing the first World Health Assembly to be held via video conference to a close, 194 member states approved a resolution that backed the WHO and called for a full review of the international response to the outbreak.

The text, tabled by the European Union along with nations like Mexico, Australia, Japan, Russia, India and Brazil, sets out an inquiry into the actions of the United Nations body, the timing of its responses and its recommendations on how to prepare for the pandemic.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the inquiry would begin as soon as possible, adding that it would not be limited to the actions of the organization.

“I will initiate an evaluation at the earliest appropriate moment. We welcome any initiative to strengthen global health security and to strengthen the WHO.

“WHO remains fully committed to transparency, accountability and continuous improvement,” Tedros said.

During the two-day conference, health authorities from all member states underlined the severity of the health crisis, gave details on the measures that they had taken to contain the spread of Covid-19 and, in general, expressed support for the coordination of the WHO, with the notable exception of the US.

Speaking on Monday, Alex Azar, the US secretary of health, said: “We must be frank about one of the primary reasons this outbreak spun out of control, there was a failure by this organisation to obtain the information that the world needed, and that failure cost many lives.

“WHO’s operations must be transparent too, and we support an independent review of every aspect of WHO’s response to the pandemic.”

In more moderate terms, European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, underlined the multilateral response to the global crisis but urged for a period of reflection on how to modernize the WHO once the pandemic has subsided.

The resolution also urged the international community to offer sustainable funding for the WHO.

The motion came just hours after US President Donald Trump threatened to make his temporary WHO funding freeze permanent and entertained the possibility of abandoning the international body altogether.

The final resolution of the World Health Assembly also called for all future coronavirus treatments and vaccines to be made universally available.

The US, which has an advanced Covid-19 vaccination program — on Monday authorities reported the first successes in human trials — maintains that the sharing of such technologies be voluntary and temporary.

The WHO’s general assembly was one of the first events in history that, given the circumstances, managed to connect almost every country on earth via the internet. EFE-EPA

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