One of the central problems facing the WHO is that it has no executive power or power to conduct independent investigations within the country. Instead, health agencies rely on behind-the-scenes negotiations and cooperation from member states.
Critics say the WHO’s traditional aversion to confrontation with member states is costly. According to dozens of leaked records of internal WHO meetings and documents obtained by the Associated Press, with the spread of COVID-19, WHO often avoids calling on countries because large donor countries such as Japan, France, and the United Kingdom make repeated mistakes. .
Some public health experts say that the WHO’s failure to exert its influence provides credibility to countries with high-risk outbreak policies, which may weaken efforts to stop the virus.
Sophie Harman, professor of international politics at Queen Mary University of London, said: “We need the WHO to be bold, name and humiliate with their political power, because the consequences are so severe.” “This is their Spanish flu moment…when When the country does something problematic, it does not speak out, the World Health Organization destroys its authority when the earth burns.”
Others say that unless countries give the WHO greater power and the ability to condemn countries, it would be politically unwise for WHO to be too blunt. Germany and France recently proposed this choice.
Suerie Moon, co-director of the Center for Global Health at the Geneva Graduate School, said: “If Tedros takes a very aggressive stance towards member states, it will have repercussions.”
WHO spokesperson Farah Dakhlallah stated that since the outbreak of the coronavirus, “WHO officials have and continue to have frank and open discussions with government counterparts… We are proud of an organizational culture that promotes frank discussions to achieve lifelong goals. Saving solutions.”
One of the scientists at the meeting, Dr. Michael Ryan, the head of emergency, also proposed the WHO method to answer the media’s March 11th on whether the agency is willing to say which countries are not doing enough problem.
Ryan said: “The answer to this question is, you know who you are.” “WHO will not interact in public debates, nor will it criticize our member states in public. What we are trying to do is with our members To cooperate constructively.”
However, it is not unprecedented that WHO publicly questioned its member states. It threatened to close the Chinese office while hiding cases during the SARS outbreak, and loudly called on Nigeria to lift its boycott of the polio vaccine in 2003, and accused Tanzania of not sharing enough information about the Ebola epidemic last year.
The review of WHO’s role in the pandemic is at a critical juncture, because the agency’s current mission is to help purchase and distribute coronavirus vaccines around the world, once proven effective, especially for poorer countries. Some countries, including the United States and Russia, have refused to join the effort, but on Sunday, Dr. Somya Swaminasen, the chief scientist of the World Health Organization, said she hoped that the Biden election would “open the door” to the United States.
As the Associated Press reported earlier, the WHO’s reluctance to convene nations began in China. Although Tedros held a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in January, information about the epidemic remained scarce throughout February. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical director for COVID-19, pointed out that the agency lacks “enough details to explain what works and what is not.”
Tedros said in a media briefing shortly thereafter: “China is doing a lot of things to slow down the spread of the virus. Facts have proved everything.”
Also in February, WHO scientists expressed concern about Japan. On February 1, a passenger who boarded the Hong Kong Diamond Princess cruise ship tested positive for the coronavirus. At the ship’s next stop in Yokohama, another 10 cases were discovered and the authorities loaded all 3,711 people into the lock.
Ryan told reporters at the time: “Let us be careful not to overreact.” But on February 10, the number of overnight stays in this case almost doubled.
Ryan said at an internal meeting: “Given the nature of the investigation, this is not surprising.” He said that only a handful of epidemiologists were assigned to the outbreak. “If you double the number of cases in a day, that would be wrong.”
Dr. Thomas Grinn, head of the WHO’s acute incident management team, reported to his colleagues that the WHO had discussed the epidemic with Japanese counterparts, but failed to collect much useful information.
He warned: “This is a very, very sensitive issue and we need to proceed with caution.”
Although WHO is keenly aware that this situation is getting worse, scientists say that the epidemic may help understand how COVID-19 is spreading.
Ryan said: “(Unfortunately), but it is a useful opportunity to study the natural history of viruses.”
A few days later, Japanese outbreak expert Dr. Kentaro Iwata boarded the Diamond Princess and called the response “completely chaotic.” Soon after, the WHO announced that more than half of the known COVID-19 cases outside of China were on the Diamond Princess.
Lawrence Gostin, director of the WHO Center for Public Health Law and Human Rights Cooperation at Georgetown University, said: “On this cruise ship, it is clear that something went wrong. What should the WHO say.” We need the WHO to say this when what he did is completely wrong.”
Although the WHO is not specific, Tedros said on February 26: “One of the biggest challenges we face is that too many affected countries have not yet shared data with the WHO.”
Throughout February and March, COVID-19 caused outbreaks in South Korea, Singapore, Iran and other places. The virus also has a foothold in Italy, making Europe the epicenter of the pandemic.
At WHO, officials worry about the lack of information from European member states in internal meetings. Grein said that WHO’s efforts to learn more about the spiral outbreak “obviously failed.”
However, on March 8, Tedros tweeted: “The Italian government and people are taking bold and courageous steps to slow the spread of #coronavirus and protect their country and the world.” Three days later , Tedros announced that COVID-19 has become a pandemic. He said that this announcement was partly due to the country’s “non-action alert level”, which he did not point out.
Gostin of Georgetown University said that when countries do not share enough data, WHO should be obliged to report publicly.
He said: “If a country does not provide important epidemiological or biological information, then the WHO and the world will be blind in an outbreak, and we cannot do this.”
The WHO also complained privately about the hoarding of scarce pandemic supplies in Western countries.
Ryan told his colleagues: “We were in a bad situation yesterday. All supplies (protective personal equipment) were requisitioned in France. We lost the opportunity to get in and out.” He said that the WHO needs to The state and companies exert pressure to avoid similar situations.
With the adoption of social distancing measures across European countries and the cancellation of collective gatherings in early March, Ryan noticed that one country did not do so: Britain.
He said: “There is not a single sporting event in Europe, but all English Premier League matches will be conducted as usual.” Ryan heard the chief scientific officer of the UK publicly stated that the country aims to immunize its cattle to a pandemic. The strategy is described as “problematic.”
Ryan said: “For this, thousands of elderly people will be infected, and the death toll will be so high.” He still said that different methods of responding to COVID-19 on a global scale may prove to be “large scale. Ecological research”, which will enable WHO to document the most effective methods.
He said: “In some ways, this is creepy, but it is reality.”
Looking ahead, the role of WHO in the ongoing development of the pandemic will depend in part on the review of the expert panel. Harman, an expert at Queen Mary University, expressed sympathy that the WHO had a huge responsibility in the first few months of COVID-19, but he said that now a bigger challenge is imminent.
She said: “This is not an experiment for WHO to learn lessons from the future. For this, the stakes are too high.” “With the next wave of pandemics, I think the time for quiet diplomacy has passed.”
Jamey Keaten in Geneva and Dake Kang in Beijing contributed to this report.