China, WHO should have acted swiftly to stop the epidemic

GENEVA (AP) – A panel of experts constituted by the World Health Organization has not previously criticized China and other countries for preventing the initial outbreak of coronovirus and questioned whether the United Nations Health Agency labeled it an epidemic. Should be planted soon.

In a report released to the media on Monday, a panel led by former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clarke said there were “lost opportunities” to institute basic public health measures as soon as possible.

“Is it clear that public health measures could be more forcefully implemented by local and national health officials in China in January,” he said.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying disputed whether China also reacted slowly.

“As the first country to sound a global alarm against the epidemic, China made immediate and conclusive decisions,” she said, adding that Wuhan – where the first human cases were identified – was closed within three weeks of commencement .

“All countries, not only China, but the US, UK, Japan or any other countries, all should try to do better,” Hua said.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, Johnson Sirleaf said it was up to those countries to overhaul the WHO to give them more authority to overhaul, adding that the organization was also constrained by lack of funds.

“The bottom line is WHO does not have powers to enforce anything,” she said. “All it can do is ask to invite in.”

Last week, an international team of WHO-led scientists arrived in Wuhan to research the animal’s origins of the epidemic after months of political wrangling to gain China’s approval for the investigation.

The panel said in late January, citing evidence of cases in other countries, public health prevention measures should be placed immediately in any country with a possible case, adding: “They were not.”

Experts also wondered why the WHO did not announce a global public health emergency – the highest warning for its outbreak – soon. The United Nations health agency convened its own emergency committee on 22 January, but did not characterize the emerging epidemic as an international emergency until a week later.

The panel said, “Another question is whether it would have helped if the WHO had used the term pandemic.”

The WHO did not describe the COVID-19 outbreak as an epidemic until March 11, weeks after the virus triggered an explosive outbreak across several continents, meeting WHO’s own definition for a flu pandemic.

As coronoviruses began to spread around the world, WHO’s top experts disputed how contagious the virus was, stating that it was not as contagious as the flu and that only people with symptoms rarely spread the virus. Scientists have since concluded that COVID-19 transmits faster than the flu and a significant proportion of the prevalence is from people who do not appear ill.

Over the past year, the WHO has come under heavy criticism for dealing with the response to COVID-19. US President Donald Trump demolished the United Nations Health Agency for “collusion” with China before halting US funding for WHO and expelling the country from the organization.

The United Nations health agency bowed to international pressure at its annual assembly of its member states to form independent panels for the preparation and response to the epidemic. The WHO chief hired Johnson Sirleaf and Clarke – who have previous ties to the UN agency – to lead the team.

An Associated Press investigation In June, the WHO publicly praised China repeatedly, while officials privately complained that Chinese authorities had stopped sharing important epidemiological information with them.

Although the panel concluded that “many countries took minimal action to prevent the spread of internally and internationally (COVID-19),” it did not name specific countries. It was also rejected by WHO for failing to criticize countries more sharply Instead of applauding the countries for their response efforts, for their audacity.

Last month, the author of the WHO report, which was withdrawn in response to Italy’s epidemic, said it warned its bosses in May that people might die and if the agency were allowed political concerns to suppress the documents Is, the agency may suffer “catastrophic” reputational damage ap.

To date, worldwide epidemics have killed more than 2 million people.


AP medical writer Maria Cheng reported from Toronto. Ken Moritsugu in Beijing contributed to this report.


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