At the start of their first-ever virtual World Health Assembly (WHA), WHO member states agreed to delay a controversial discussion on granting Taiwan observer status until later in the year.
The agreement came after WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pledged to launch an independent probe to review the coronavirus pandemic response as soon as possible, and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) announced that China would provide US$2 billion over two years to fight the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout.
Despite the US and other members stepping up pressure in recent days, the WHA unanimously agreed to postpone a decision on observer status for Taiwan — a move vehemently opposed by Beijing — to avoid diverting attention from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo: AFP / WHO
Tedros had opened the two-day virtual meeting by warning there was still “a long road to travel” before the pandemic is contained, saying that the majority of the world’s population remains susceptible to the virus.
Tedros said the pandemic has exposed critical fault lines between countries that could jeopardize stopping the virus.
“Science has been hailed and scorned, nations have come together as never before and geopolitical divisions have been thrown into sharp relief,” he said.
Photo: AFP / WHO
The WHO is committed to “transparency, accountability, and continuous improvement,” Tedros said.
The EU’s 27-member bloc and other countries called for an independent evaluation of the WHO’s initial response to the pandemic “to review experience gained and lessons learned.”
The EU resolution proposes that the independent evaluation should be initiated “at the earliest appropriate moment” and should, among other issues, examine “the actions of WHO and their timelines pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Tedros said that he welcomed the proposal for an independent evaluation of the global response to COVID-19, including the WHO’s coordinating role.
He also promised to “initiate an independent evaluation at the earliest appropriate moment to review experience gained and lessons learned, and to make recommendations to improve national and global pandemic preparedness and response.”
Xi defended his government’s actions, saying that China had provided all relevant outbreak data to the WHO and other countries, including the virus’ genetic sequence, “in a most timely fashion.”
“We have shared control and treatment experience with the world without reservation,” Xi said. “We have done everything in our power to support and assist countries in need.”
Xi said he also supports the idea of a comprehensive review of the global response to COVID-19.
“This work should be based on science and professionalism, led by WHO and conducted in an objective and impartial manner,” he said.
He said the US$2 billion would be to support COVID-19 response efforts, including economic and social development, particularly in developing countries.
Meanwhile, in her video address, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said countries need to work together to overcome the pandemic.
“No country can solve this problem alone,” she said.
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