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China, WHO should have acted quicker to stop pandemic: expert panel | CBC News

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A panel of specialists commissioned by the World Health Organization has criticized China and different nations for not transferring to stem the preliminary outbreak of the coronavirus earlier and questioned whether or not the UN well being company should have labelled it a pandemic sooner.

In a report issued to the media Monday, the panel led by former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark mentioned there have been “lost opportunities” to arrange fundamental public well being measures as early as potential.

“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,” it mentioned.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying disputed whether or not China had reacted too slowly.

“As the first country to sound the global alarm against the epidemic, China made immediate and decisive decisions,” she mentioned, mentioning that Wuhan — the place the primary human instances have been recognized — was locked down inside three weeks of the outbreak beginning.

“All countries, not only China, but also the U.S., the U.K., Japan or any other countries, should all try to do better,” Hua mentioned.

WHO has ‘no powers to implement something’

At a press briefing on Tuesday, Johnson Sirleaf mentioned it was up to nations whether or not they needed to overhaul WHO to accord it extra authority to stamp out outbreaks, saying the group was additionally constrained by its lack of funding.

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“The bottom line is WHO has no powers to enforce anything,” she mentioned. “All it can do is ask to be invited in.”

Last week, a world group of WHO-led scientists arrived in Wuhan to analysis the animal origins of the pandemic after months of political wrangling to safe China’s approval for the probe.

The panel additionally cited proof of instances in different nations in late January, saying public well being containment measures should have been put in place instantly in any nation with a possible case, including: “They were not.”

The specialists additionally puzzled why WHO didn’t declare a worldwide public well being emergency — its highest warning for outbreaks — sooner. The UN well being company convened its emergency committee on Jan. 22, however didn’t characterize the rising pandemic as a world emergency till per week later.

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

WHO didn’t describe the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic till March 11, weeks after the virus had begun inflicting explosive outbreaks in quite a few continents, assembly WHO’s personal definition for a flu pandemic.

WATCH | PM Justin Trudeau reacts to WHO interim report: 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with the CBC’s Tom Parry on Tuesday exterior Rideau Cottage. 1:19

As the coronavirus started spreading throughout the globe, WHO’s prime specialists disputed how infectious the virus was, saying it was not as contagious as flu and that individuals with out signs solely hardly ever unfold the virus. Scientists have since concluded that COVID-19 transmits even quicker than the flu and {that a} vital proportion of unfold is from individuals who do not seem to be sick.

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The WHO is underpowered and underfunded, and should be reformed to give it the resourcing to be simpler, in accordance to an impartial panel reviewing the WHO and the worldwide response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are not here to assign blame, but to make concrete recommendations to help the world respond faster and better in future,”Johnson Sirleaf, advised reporters on a briefing on Tuesday, a day after the panel’s interim report was issued.

“I do believe that WHO is reformable.”

WHO response has confronted criticism 

Over the previous 12 months, WHO has come beneath heavy criticism for its dealing with of the response to COVID-19. U.S. President Donald Trump slammed the UN well being company for “colluding” with China to cowl up the extent of the preliminary outbreak earlier than halting U.S. funding for WHO and pulling the nation out of the group.

The UN well being company bowed to the worldwide stress on the annual meeting of its member states final spring by creating the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response. The WHO chief appointed Johnson Sirleaf and Clark — who each have earlier ties to the UN company — to lead the group.

Canada’s official response

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mentioned his authorities will evaluate the report for the way to apply its lesson to Canada’s pandemic response each now and sooner or later. 

“Obviously there are things looking back that we could have, should have done differently,” he mentioned on Tuesday. “I think one of the most important things, as we move forward is making sure that we learn from this experience for future governments and future administrations.”

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Steven Hoffman, director of the Global Strategy Lab at York University in Toronto, mentioned the report’s authors give a scathing evaluation of present pandemic response. 

“Every political leader in the world was just hoping that the next pandemic wouldn’t happen on their watch. The results? Deadly consequences,” mentioned Hoffman, a professor of world well being, legislation, and political science. 

Hoffman mentioned he hopes COVID-19 disaster will probably be a rallying cry to guarantee governments put money into public well being not solely to stop emergencies but in addition to promote well being. Health promotion consists of rising charges of bodily exercise and reducing down on smoking, which additionally saves cash, he mentioned. 

A COVID-19 area hospital will get prepared for sufferers final spring through the peak of the disaster in Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei province. (Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images)

An Associated Press investigation in June discovered WHO repeatedly lauded China in public whereas officers privately complained that Chinese officers stalled on sharing vital epidemic data with them.

Although the panel concluded that “many countries took minimal action to prevent the spread (of COVID-19) internally and internationally,” it didn’t identify particular nations. It additionally declined to name out WHO for its failure to extra sharply criticize nations for his or her missteps as a substitute of lauding nations for his or her response efforts.

Last month, the writer of a withdrawn WHO report into Italy’s pandemic response mentioned he warned his bosses in May that individuals may die and the company may endure “catastrophic” reputational injury if it allowed political considerations to suppress the doc, in accordance to emails obtained by the AP.

To date, the pandemic has killed greater than two million individuals worldwide.

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