The World Health Organization on Monday acquiesced to pressure from its member nations to submit to an investigation into its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The WHO will launch an independent review of the organization’s response to the global health crisis “at the earliest appropriate moment,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the annual meeting of the World Health Assembly, which was held virtually this year due to fears about the spread of the virus.
Tedros defended the WHO’s response to the pandemic despite criticism that it was slow to act, insisting that, “WHO sounded the alarm early, and we sounded it often.”
“Every country and every organization must examine its response and learn from its experience,” the WHO director added.
A draft resolution calling for an independent investigation into the WHO’s coronavirus response is set for a vote on Tuesday. The proposal is led by the United Kingdom and Australia and is supported by at least 116 of the 194 WHO member states. A two-thirds majority is required for the resolution to pass.
An oversight report published Monday said the WHO “demonstrated leadership and made important progress in its COVID-19 response” but supported a review of the organization’s response to the outbreak.
Health Secretary Alex Azar doubled down on the Trump administration’s criticism of the WHO in the wake of the pandemic, saying the organization is implicated in allowing the pathogen to spread but declining to mention China by name.
“We must be frank about one of the primary reasons this outbreak spun out of control,” Azar said. “There was a failure by this organization to obtain the information that the world needed, and that failure cost many lives.”
President Trump has hammered the WHO over its early response to the pandemic, accusing it of being partial to China and endangering countries by recommending borders be kept open.
In January, the WHO recommended that countries keep borders and trade open even as it dubbed the coronavirus outbreak a global emergency.
The Trump administration has rerouted funding away from the WHO, suspending payments until a review is conducted “to assess the World Health Organization’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus,” Trump said.
As of Monday afternoon, more than 4.7 million people have contracted the coronavirus worldwide, and more than 315,000 people have died from the respiratory illness.