Saturday, November 6, 2021

Pandemic response probe panel critical of China, WHO delays – ET HealthWorld

Geneva: An independent panel said on Monday that Chinese officials could have applied public health measures more forcefully in January to curb the initial Covid-19 outbreak, and criticised the WHO for not declaring an international emergency until January 30. The experts reviewing the global handling of the pandemic, led by former New Zealand PM Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, called for reforms to the UN agency.

Their interim report was published hours after the WHO’s top emergency expert, Mike Ryan, said that global virus deaths were expected to top 100,000 per week “very soon”. “What is clear to the panel is that public health measures could have been applied more forcefully by local and national health authorities in China in January,” the report said, referring to the initial outbreak in Wuhan. As evidence emerged of human-to-human transmission, “in far too many countries, this signal was ignored”, it added.

Specifically, it questioned why the WHO’s emergency committee did not meet until the third week of January and did not declare an international emergency until its second meeting on January 30. “It was not until 11 March that WHO used the term,” the report said. “The pandemic alert system is not fit for purpose”, it said. “The WHO has been underpowered to do the job.”

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