WHO still dogged by critics, six months after declaring coronavirus emergency

WHO still dogged by critics, six months after declaring coronavirus emergency

  • Some argue countries’ ability to respond to the virus was impeded by the WHO being too slow to declare a public health emergency and a pandemic
  • The organisation has also been accused of being too late with its advice about masks and human-to-human transmission

The World Health Organisation declared the new coronavirus an international emergency six months ago, a decision that was attacked at the time for being too late. Those criticisms of the WHO being slow in response to the Covid-19 pandemic have continued.

The critics are not just US President Donald Trump, who has pulled the United States out of the WHO, saying it failed to hold China accountable for its part in the spread of Covid-19. Medical professionals have also said the organisation has been found wanting and needs reform in the face of a pandemic that has killed more than 650,000 people.

Meanwhile, the virus keeps resurging in countries that believed they had it under control. But officials say that the pandemic has also been politicised and a lack of leadership in some countries has hindered an effective response, adding that a rise of nationalism and isolationism has not helped.

“The WHO is not purely a technical organisation, it is very much a diplomatic organisation,” said Keiji Fukuda, a clinical professor at the University of Hong Kong who previously worked for the WHO and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. “It has political roles to play and often I think it is fair to say it’s slow.”