Covid-19 response, China’s offer of help: All about day 1 of WHO session
The session of the World Health Assembly, which was curtailed to just to days from the usual three weeks, almost entirely focused on reviewing the global response to the coronavirus pandemic.Updated: May 19, 2020 11:33 IST
The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday kicked off its first-ever virtual assembly, where the participant countries called for a joint response to the coronavirus pandemic and for any vaccine to be a “global public good”.
Countries also called for a reform of the UN health body to ensure it is better prepared to address future pandemics.
The session of the World Health Assembly (WHA), which was curtailed to just to days from the usual three weeks, almost entirely focused on reviewing the global response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Here are the highlights of the first day of the WHA session:
‘Sounded the alarm’
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reiterated to the assembly that his organisation had “sounded the alarm early, and we sounded it often”.
“Many countries have ignored the recommendations of the World Health Organization,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. The world was “paying a heavy price” for the sometimes contradictory strategies, he added.
China offers help
Chinese President Xi Jinping voiced support for a joint approach, vowing in his address to make any vaccine his country developed available for all.
A WHA resolution tabled by the European Union calls for an impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation of the international response to the coronavirus crisis.
US health secretary Alex Azar called for an independent review of “every aspect” of the UN health agency’s response to the pandemic.
While Tedros welcomed that call, he stressed there was no need to dramatically overhaul the WHO. Tedros said that the immediate need was to strengthen, implement and finance the systems and organisations, including the WHO.
Despite swelling tensions, countries hope to adopt a resolution by consensus.
Taiwan decision delayed
Member states steered clear of a controversial discussion on whether to grant Taiwan observer status, a move vehemently opposed by Beijing, which considers the island part of its territory.
Nearly 15 states, including Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, wanted the question of Taiwan’s participation to be added to the WHA agenda.
Washington has also been increasingly vocal, with demands that Taiwan be allowed in as an observer.
But amid fears the row would overshadow the global health body’s work to address the Covid-19 crisis, members unanimously agreed Monday to postpone the discussion until later in the year.