GENEVA / ZURICH (Reuters) – The World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday that it is setting up an independent panel to review its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the response of governments.
The announcement follows strong criticism from US President Donald Trump regarding the administration of the global agency’s role in the crisis – although the WHO said the review was not linked to the United States. United.
Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf have agreed to lead the panel, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“The scale of this pandemic, which has affected almost everyone in the world, clearly deserves a proportionate assessment, an honest assessment,” Tedros said in a virtual meeting with diplomats.
The panel will present an interim report to an annual meeting of health ministers in November and present a “background report” next May, he said.
Trump accused the WHO of being too close to China and of not doing enough to question Beijing’s actions at the start of the crisis. Tedros rejected the suggestions and said his agency had kept the world informed.
In May, Trump said that the agency’s largest donor would withdraw from the organization unless there are real reforms, a threat he followed this week in giving one year notice of withdrawal.
“The president was clear that WHO needs to pull itself together. It starts with demonstrating significant progress and the ability to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease epidemics with transparency and accountability, “a senior US official in Washington told Reuters on Thursday.
The WHO issued a statement saying that the review was not related to the United States and that its 194 member countries had asked in May for an assessment of the global response.
More than 12 million people have been infected with the new coronavirus worldwide and 548,429 have died since the virus first emerged in the central city of Wuhan in China late last year, according to a Reuters count.
Lawrence Gostin, a professor at Georgetown Law in Washington, DC, said the panel should not be “internal work” led by states close to the WHO, nor comply with what he called “theories of Trump’s plot. ”
“What is really vital is that we have truly independent experts from a variety of disciplines who will honestly and frankly examine the situation with COVID,” Gostin told Reuters.
“Are they going to look at China’s action, are they going to look at WHO’s initial response to China, look at things like … the power of WHO to independently verify state reports?”, He added.