The findings of a new report are an affirmation of what has long been regarded — but not acknowledged — as damaging negligence by Beijing and WHO
An independent panel reviewing the global handling of the pandemic has criticised the responses by China and the World Health Organization, blaming them for not doing enough and ignoring crucial signs in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak. Headed by New Zealand’s former Prime Minister Helen Clark and Liberia’s former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the committee released an interim report on Monday, detailing several points of failure. China did not make adequate efforts to contain the outbreak, WHO dragged its feet till the end of January (and did not declare a pandemic until mid-March), and many countries ignored evidence that the virus spread between humans.
The findings are an affirmation of what has long been regarded — but not acknowledged — as damaging negligence by Beijing and WHO. It was most starkly captured in China being reluctant to declare human-to-human transmission. Even as its scientists released the genetic code of the coronavirus on January 10, 2020, China withheld almost irrefutable information that the virus spread between humans. WHO virtually memorialised this transgression in a tweet sent out on January 14, when the UN agency deferred to China’s assessments that the virus did not transmit between humans. Thus began an ostrich-like reaction that the world would eventually be jolted out of only when it was too late and the virus began to rip through multiple countries.
The world now needs to look back in detail on how it allowed an outbreak despite warnings from scientists, who for years said a pandemic was coming. The autopsy of the failed health emergency mechanism should form the bedrock of a global reset so that the next pandemic is identified for what it is before it debilitates us again.