WHO chief agrees to independent review of coronavirus response; warns majority of world still susceptible to virus

World News

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a daily press briefing on COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, at the WHO heardquaters in Geneva on March 11, 2020.

Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images

The World Health Organization said Monday it will initiate an independent review into its handling of the coronavirus pandemic “at the earliest appropriate moment” and urged countries to continue funding the agency.

Speaking at the World Health Assembly, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on all nations to “do everything it takes to ensure that the 2020 coronavirus pandemic is never repeated.”

“The world doesn’t need another plan, another system, another mechanism, another committee or another organization,” he said. “It needs to strengthen, implement and finance the systems and organizations it has — including WHO.”

More than 4.7 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University, including more than 315,000 deaths.

Tedros added that the world could no longer afford the “short-term amnesia” that had characterized the global response to health crises in the past, calling for a comprehensive framework to be established to facilitate pandemic preparedness around the globe.

“The world does not lack the tools, the science, or the resources to make it safer from pandemics,” he told the conference. “What is has lacked is the sustained commitment to use the tools, the science and the resources it has. That must change, and it must change today.”

Acknowledging that everyone had lessons to learn from the Covid-19 pandemic, Tedros said the WHO was committed to transparency and would therefore facilitate an independent review of its response to the coronavirus outbreak.

“I will initiate an independent evaluation at the earliest appropriate moment to review experience gained and lessons learned, and to make recommendations to improve national and global pandemic preparedness and response,” he said.

World leaders are gathering virtually on Monday for the WHO’s 73rd World Health Assembly.

Earlier on at the conference, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged $2 billion to support other countries’ response to the pandemic. Xi also expressed support for a comprehensive review into the global response to Covid-19.

An EU-drafted resolution that called for an independent review into the WHO’s performance amid the coronavirus crisis was backed by a majority of the health body’s 194 member states on Monday.

The Trump administration has been particularly critical of the WHO’s response, with President Donald Trump pulling U.S. funding from the organization in April. However, Trump said Saturday he was considering restoring some funding to the WHO.

Majority of population still susceptible to Covid-19

Tedros also urged policymakers on Monday not to lift lockdown restrictions too rapidly.

“Countries that move too fast, without putting in place the public health architecture to detect and suppress transmission, run a real risk of handicapping their own recovery,” he warned.

“Even in the worst-affected regions, the proportion of the population with the tell-tale antibodies is no more than 20%, and in most places, less than 10%. In other words: the majority of the world’s population remains susceptible to this virus.”

Several countries in Asia and Europe continue to lift restrictions, first introduced in an effort to slow the spread of Covid-19.