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COVID-19: WHO panel indicts UN agency, China

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Readiness and Response has accused China and the World Health Organisation (WHO) of slow reaction to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Geneva-based committee released its report on Tuesday.

WHO Director General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, set up the panel in July to evaluate the global response to COVID-19.

It is co-chaired by ex-Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark and former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

The second report submitted to the WHO Executive Board found that the UN agency was at times too slow in its reaction.

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“Our report makes it clear that the world is more reliant on an effective WHO than ever before”, Sirleaf said.

The former leader expressed concern that the UN agency does not get timely access to countries when a potential threat emerges.

She urged WHO member states themselves to provide more resources and opportunities.

In her remarks, Clark said China could also have been faster in its response.

Clark wondered why the discovery of 27 cases in Wuhan was made public only a week after their detection and why the city was not immediately put on lockdown.

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She regretted that despite the declaration of a global public health emergency on January 30, many countries took minimal action to prevent the spread.

“One question is whether it would have helped if WHO had used the word pandemic earlier than it did.”

Noting that ‘pandemic’ is neither used nor defined in the International Health Regulations (2005), its use does serve to focus attention on the gravity of a health event.

WHO declared coronavirus a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

The panel’s final report will be presented to the World Health Assembly in May.

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