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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (Photo: AP) (Photo: AP)
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (Photo: AP) (Photo: AP)

Coronavirus: WHO  to  probe pandemic origin

  • The review will come ‘at the earliest appropriate moment’, WHO director-general Ghebreyesus said
  • New Delhi, on its part, said it welcomed all efforts towards the transformation of global institutions

NEW DELHI : World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday said an independent evaluation of the global coronavirus response would be launched as soon as possible and China, where covid originated, also backed such a review.

Ghebreyesus made his promise during a virtual meeting of WHO’s decision-making body, the World Health Assembly, in Geneva. Chinese President Xi Jinping, who spoke before Ghebreyesus, defended his country’s handling of the crisis.

The comments come against the backdrop of mounting criticism against both the WHO and China over their alleged roles in allowing covid-19 to develop into a pandemic that has crippled the global economy, claimed more than 315,000 lives and also led to more than 4.7 million people falling ill. US President Donald Trump has fiercely questioned the WHO’s performance in handling the pandemic and led international criticism of China’s handling of the early stages of the crisis.

Ghebreyesus said the review will come “at the earliest appropriate moment" and provide recommendations for future preparedness. “We all have lessons to learn... Every country and every organization must examine its response and learn from its experience. WHO is committed to transparency, accountability and continuous improvement," Ghebreyesus said. The review must encompass responsibility of “all actors in good faith", he said.

A resolution drafted by the European Union and backed by at least 62 countries, including India, has called for an independent evaluation of the WHO’s performance.

China has previously opposed calls for a review of the origin and spread of coronavirus, but Xi on Monday seemed to suggest Beijing would be amenable to an impartial evaluation of the global response once the pandemic is brought under control.

“This work needs a scientific and professional attitude, and needs to be led by the WHO. The principles of objectivity and fairness need to be upheld," he told the meeting.

“All along we have acted with openness and transparency and responsibility," Xi said. He also pledged $2 billion over the next two years to fight the pandemic.

India, on its part, said it welcomed all efforts towards the transformation of global institutions, making them more reflective of 21st century realities. “India will always stand with such efforts to foster meaningful and broad-based change," health minister Harsh Vardhan said.

Vardhan also called for global coordination with governments, industry, and philanthropies coming together to “prioritize the long term and pool resources,to ensure everyone benefits". India has been supplying medicines to more than 120 countries across the world “as an expression of solidarity", he said.

The sole focus of the 18-19 May session is the covid crisis. India is set to take over as the chair of the executive board from Japan.

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