Panel: China, WHO should have acted quicker to stop pandemic
A panel of experts commissioned by the World Health Organization has criticized China and other coUNtries for not moving to stem the initial outbreak of the coronavirus earlier and questioned whether the UN health agency should have labeled it a pandemic sooner. Only some countries took full advantage of the information available to respond to the evidence of an emerging pandemic, the panel said.
'China could have applied their efforts more forcefully in January'
In a report issued on Monday, the panel led by former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said there were lost opportunities to apply basic public health measures at the earliest opportunity. They also said that Chinese authorities could have applied their efforts more forcefully in January shortly after the coronavirus began sickening clusters of people.
WHO criticized for not declaring a global emergency sooner
Further, the experts also wondered why WHO did not declare a global public health emergency sooner. The UN health agency convened its emergency committee on January 22 but did not characterize the emerging pandemic as an international emergency until a week later. At the time, WHO said its expert committee was divided on whether a global emergency should be declared.
WHO declared COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic only on March 11
WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11. As the coronavirus began spreading, WHO's top experts disputed how infectious the virus was, saying it was not as contagious as flu, and people without symptoms rarely spread the virus. Scientists have since concluded that COVID-19 transmits even quicker than the flu and a significant proportion of the spread is from asymptomatic people.
WHO was also slammed by Donald Trump
Furthermore, US President Trump slammed the UN health agency for colluding with China to cover up the extent of the initial outbreak before halting US funding for WHO and pulling the country out of the organization. An Associated Press investigation in June found WHO repeatedly lauded China in public while officials privately complained that Chinese officials stalled on sharing critical epidemic information with them.
A withdrawn WHO report had warned that people could die
The author of a withdrawn WHO report into Italy's pandemic response warned his bosses in May that people could die and the agency could suffer catastrophic reputational damage if it allowed political concerns to suppress the document, according to emails obtained by AP.
The panel, however, did not name countries that failed
Although the panel concluded that many countries took minimal action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 internally and internationally, it did not name specific countries. It also declined to call out WHO for its failure to more sharply criticize countries for their missteps instead of lauding countries for their response efforts.