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China, WHO should have sounded pandemic alarm sooner: expert panel | CBC News

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A panel of specialists commissioned by the World Health Organization has criticized China and different international locations for not shifting 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 stated there have been “lost opportunities” to arrange fundamental public well being measures as early as attainable.

“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 stated.

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 stated, declaring that Wuhan — the place the primary human instances 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 stated.

WHO has ‘no powers to implement something’

It’s as much as international locations whether or not they need to overtake WHO to provide it extra authority to stamp out outbreaks, Johnson Sirleaf stated, including the group can also be constrained by its lack of funding.

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“The bottom line is WHO has no powers to enforce anything,” she stated at a press briefing on Tuesday. “All it can do is ask to be invited in.”

Last week, a global 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 WHO, led by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, met on Jan. 22, 2020, however didn’t characterize the rising pandemic as a global emergency till per week later. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone/The Associated Press)

The panel additionally cited proof of instances in different international locations in late January, saying public well being containment measures should have been put in place instantly in any nation with a probable 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 stated.

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 folks with out signs solely not often unfold the virus. Scientists have since concluded that COVID-19 transmits even faster than the flu and {that a} vital proportion of unfold is from individuals who do not look like sick.

The WHO is underpowered and underfunded, and should be reformed to provide it the resourcing to be more practical, in response to an unbiased 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, informed reporters, a day after the panel’s interim report was issued.

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

WHO response has confronted criticism 

Over the previous yr, 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 steer the group.

A COVID-19 discipline 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 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 international locations. It additionally declined to name out WHO for its failure to extra sharply criticize international locations for his or her missteps as a substitute of lauding international locations for his or her response efforts.

Last month, the creator of a withdrawn WHO report into Italy’s pandemic response stated he warned his bosses in May that folks may die and the company may endure “catastrophic” reputational harm if it allowed political issues to suppress the doc, in response to emails obtained by the AP.

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

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