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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 doable.

“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, declaring that Wuhan — the place the primary human circumstances had 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 wished 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 global staff 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 circumstances 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 questioned 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 global 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.

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 not often unfold the virus. Scientists have since concluded that COVID-19 transmits even quicker than the flu and {that a} important proportion of unfold is from individuals who do not seem to be sick.

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The WHO is underpowered and underfunded, and have to 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, instructed reporters on a briefing on Tuesday, a day after the panel’s interim report was issued.

“I do believe that WHO is reformable,” she mentioned.

WHO response has confronted criticism 

Over the previous yr, WHO has come underneath 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 staff.

A COVID-19 area hospital will get prepared for sufferers final spring throughout the top 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 crucial 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 an alternative 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 undergo “catastrophic” reputational harm if it allowed political issues to suppress the doc, in accordance to emails obtained by the AP.

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

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