The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Xi Jinping-led Chinese government have both agreed to independent inquiries probing the origins of the Covid-19 coronavirus, and the former’s handling of the virus.
The WHO bowed to pressure from most of its member states, which have been calling for the launch of an independent probe into how the organisation managed the international response to Covid-19.
A coalition of African, European and other countries continued the call at the WHO’s 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA), which was held via videoconference on Monday.
The countries requested a “comprehensive evaluation” intended to review lessons learnt from the WHO’s coordination of the global response to Covid-19.
Responding to these calls, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he would launch an independent evaluation of the organisation’s response “at the earliest appropriate moment”.
He expressed these sentiments following the publishing of the first report by an oversight advisory body commissioned to look into the WHO’s response.
The 11-page report raised questions on the WHO’s warning systems for alerting the world about outbreaks – whether these were adequate or not. The report also suggested that member states might need to reassess the WHO’s role in providing travel advice to countries.
In his opening remarks at the WHA meeting, Ghebreyesus confirmed that the entire world and his organisation had been “humbled by this very small microbe”.
“This contagion exposes the fault lines, inequalities, injustices and contradictions of our modern world.
“And geopolitical divisions have been thrown into sharp relief,” said Tredros.
Tweeting from the sideline of the WHA meeting, US President Donald Trump continued to place the blame squarely on the WHO.
Trump on Monday said the organisation had done “a very sad job”, adding that the WHO “gave us a lot of bad advice, terrible advice. They were wrong so much, always on the side of China.”
Continuing the trend of bowing to pressure, China agreed to an independent inquiry into the origins of the virus on Monday.
This came as a result of a resolution drafted by EU member states and signatories from 120 countries, including India and Australia, which have been vocal in calling for an investigation into the source of the virus “and the alleged process of its introduction to humans”.
“On the issue of the origin of the virus, all parties have agreed to an international health regulations emergency committee, and ask the WHO chief to work in close collaboration with the World Organisation for Animal Health as well as the Food and Agriculture Organisation and all countries to find out the animal source and the transmission routes of the virus through field investigations, as well as to find out the possible intermediary host”, said China’s foreign affairs information spokesperson Zhao Lijian.
While the US has announced that it will be withholding its contributions to the WHO, the Chinese government announced a contribution of $2 billion over two years to fight the pandemic.