United States secretary of health and human services Xavier Becerra stressed the need for developing surge capacity for the global manufacturing of personal protective equipment, vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and the healthcare workforce. (HT photo)
United States secretary of health and human services Xavier Becerra stressed the need for developing surge capacity for the global manufacturing of personal protective equipment, vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and the healthcare workforce. (HT photo)

We need Taiwan as observer at WHA and Covid investigation, says US

United States secretary of health and human services Xavier Becerra also stressed need for the second phase of the study on the origins of coronavirus with terms of reference that are transparent, science-based, and give international experts the independence to assess the source of the virus and the early days of the outbreak.
By Shishir Gupta, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAY 25, 2021 05:05 PM IST

Addressing the 74th World Health Assembly (WHA) on Tuesday United States secretary of health and human services Xavier Becerra said the world leaders must do more to understand the current pandemic and look forward toward detecting, preparing, and responding to future biological threats.

"The Phase 2 of the Covid origins study must be launched with terms of reference that are transparent, science-based, and give international experts the independence to fully assess the source of the virus and the early days of the outbreak," Becerra said.

He stressed the need to implement and adhere to obligations under the international health regulations.

"We need to improve transparency, immediately share critical information about outbreaks with pandemic potential, and strengthen health systems to withstand shocks," he said.

ALSO READ: At WHA talk-shop, countries mull WHO reforms and rebuilding post-Covid world

He also reiterated the US' demand for inclusion of Taiwan as an observer. "Global collaboration will be key in tackling the many challenges still before us. Collaboration with non-state actors must continue, and we must invite Taiwan to be a part of the World Health Assembly as an observer," he said.

China considers Taiwan as its undisputed territory and retaliates at any country which wants to have separate and independent diplomatic ties with Taipei. For US to ask for Taiwan to become an observer at the WHA is akin to showing the red flag to president Xi Jinping.

"The Covid-19 pandemic not only stole a year from our lives, it stole millions of lives," he said at the gathering.

"The challenges before us are many, but not insurmountable," Becerra acknowledged.

He praised the pan-American health organisations for leading efforts to combat the pandemic and deliver much needed supplies and vaccines to our neighbors in the Americas as well as AFRO and its concurrent work to respond to multiple Ebola outbreaks on top of Covid-19.

"Now we must honor our departed by taking urgent action this year – to strengthen health security and pandemic preparedness so that we are better prepared for the next global health crisis," he said, adding, "This means improving global triggers, so all countries take swift action toward the next biological threat."

He stressed the need for developing surge capacity for the global manufacturing of personal protective equipment, vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and the healthcare workforce.

"Together, we must address racial, gender and other forms of inequality, promote sexual and reproductive health and rights, and strive for equity across society," he said.

The WHO kicked off the main annual gathering of World Health Assembly with 194 member states on Monday with all eyes on the global response to Covid-19 - and what concrete steps can be taken to avert future pandemics.

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