W.H.O. admits shortcomings, welcomes review of COVID-19 response

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The World Health Organization said it would launch an independent review of its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

A resolution tabled by the European Union called for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the international response to the pandemic, which has so far infected nearly 4.8 million people and killed more than 317,000.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged there had been shortcomings and told the virtual assembly he welcomed calls for a review.

“I will initiate an independent evaluation at the earliest appropriate moment to review experience gained and lessons learned, and to make recommendations to improve national and global pandemic preparedness and response,” he said.

“But one thing is abundantly clear. The world must never be the same.

U.S. President Donald Trump, in recent days, has renewed his attack on the global body, branding it a “puppet of China” and threatening a permanent freeze on U.S. funding.

The U.S. and China are locked in an increasingly bitter spat over the coronavirus pandemic and the U.S.has also taken aim at the W.H.O.

“We must be frank about one of the primary reasons this outbreak spun out of control: there was a failure by this organization to obtain the information that the world needed, and that failure cost many lives,” U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar said in a video address to the WHO’s main annual meeting.

A wide range of country leaders and health ministers hailed the WHO’s efforts, however.

The United States suspended its funding to the health body, accusing it of being too close to Beijing, and covering up and mismanaging the pandemic.

“In an apparent attempt to conceal this outbreak, at least one member state made a mockery of their transparency obligations, with tremendous costs for the entire world,” said Azar, pointing the finger at Beijing.

The outbreak, which emerged in China late last year, has killed and infected more people in the United States than in any other country by far.

Later Monday, Trump threatened to permanently freeze US funding to the WHO and reconsider its membership unless “substantive improvements” were made within the next 30 days.

“The only way forward for the World Health Organization is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China,” Trump said in a letter to the WHO chief.

Trump has accused the WHO of blindly taking the word of China, where the SARS-CoV-2 virus was first detected.

Critics say Trump, who had earlier praised China’s response, is trying to divert attention from his handling of the pandemic in the United States, which has suffered by far the highest death toll.

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