Panel questions how China, WHO initially responded to the pandemic

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China’s response to the first cases of COVID-19 in 2020 was too weak and the WHO may also have reacted too slowly.

This is contained in an interim report by an international inquiry panel on Tuesday.

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response was formed in 2020, following a request by member countries of the Geneva-based WHO, to identify learning’s from the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“What is clear to the panel is that public health measures could have been applied more forcefully by local and national health authorities in China in January,’’ said the expert group, led by former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark and former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

The panel said it was not clear why a WHO emergency expert committee was only convened on Jan. 22, 2020, and why it had not been able to agree to call the situation a global health emergency before Jan. 30.

In addition, the panel noted that the WHO had failed to describe the outbreak as a pandemic until early March, even though this term would have helped to focus attention on the gravity of the situation.

However, the inquiry panel did not put all the blame on China and the WHO.

Even though it was clear in January 2020 that there were COVID-19 cases in a number of countries, too few governments used the information available to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Public health containment measures should have been implemented immediately in any country with a likely cause.

“They were not,’’ the report said. (dpa/NAN)

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