WHO chief says comments questioning his independence 'untrue and unacceptable'

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The World Health Organisation's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. (Gallo Images, Getty Images)
The World Health Organisation's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. (Gallo Images, Getty Images)

The head of the World Health Organization said on Thursday that reported comments by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo questioning his independence were untrue and would not distract the organisation from its work in fighting the coronavirus.

Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has come under criticism, especially from US President Donald Trump and Pompeo, who have accused him of being pro-China.

"And the comments are untrue and unacceptable and without any foundation, for that matter," he said in response to a question at a Geneva briefing about remarks by Pompeo reported in London on Tuesday, questioning his independence.

"Our sole focus - and the focus of the entire organisation - is on saving lives.

"...And WHO will not be distracted by these comments. We don't want the international community also to be distracted."

43 new cases every minute

He also said the WHO was seeing intense transmission of the coronavirus in relatively few countries.

"Two-thirds of all cases are from 10 countries. Almost half of all cases reported so far are from just three countries," he said.

Recorded US coronavirus infections exceeded 4 million on Thursday, with over 2 600 new ones every hour on average, the highest rate in the world, according to a Reuters tally.

Infections in the United States have rapidly accelerated since the first Covid-19 case was detected on 21 January.

It took the country 98 days to reach 1 million cases. It took another 43 days to reach 2 million and then 27 days to reach 3 million.

It has only taken 16 days to reach 4 million at a rate of 43 new cases a minute.

Tedros also said that just because cases may be at a low level where someone lives, it doesn't mean they should let down their guard.

"Know your situation - do you know how many cases were reported where you live yesterday? Do you know how to find that information? Do you know how to minimise your exposure?"

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