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Health leaders push for inquiry into Covid-19 pandemic response

  • World pays heavy price for ‘little unity’ on virus, says UN chief
  • China pledges $2b to fight virus
  • Macron, Merkel to join forces

Global health leaders are pushing for an independent review of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic at the UN’s World Health Assembly.

Yesterday’s virtual meeting brings together envoys from 194 member states of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The WHO is facing questions on how it dealt with the coronavirus pandemic.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has defended his country’s actions during the outbreak, spoke during yesterday’s opening ceremony.

He said China had acted “with openness and transparency” and insisted that any investigation should happen after the pandemic was brought under control.

United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres also said the coronavirus was able to spread across the globe because countries failed to fight it together.

“We have seen some solidarity, but very little unity, in our response to Covid-19,’’ he said at the start of the WHO annual meeting.

According to him, because many countries had ignored the WHO’s recommendations, “the virus has spread across the world and is now moving into the global South, where its impact may be even more devastating.’’

In a video message from New York, Guterres called on countries to increase their funding of the WHO, so that the UN health agency can support developing countries.

In other opening remarks, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed a proposed resolution calling for a review of the WHO’s handling of the pandemic and said it would initiate it “at the earliest opportunity”.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the WHO must be given more legal powers to ensure that countries report outbreaks and share data.

“A novel infectious disease could emerge at any time and we must be able to respond more quickly and effectively,” he said.

The two-day assembly – an annual meeting that reviews the work of the UN’s health agency – comes amid recriminations between the US and China over the virus.

The U.S. has already stopped its funding for the agency and is promoting its own vaccine programme.

More than 4.5 million people have been infected and more than 300,000 have died since the virus emerged in China in December.

The European Union, alongside countries including the UK, Australia and New Zealand, is pushing for an inquiry into how the pandemic has been handled and what lessons can be learned.

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