Friday Jul 1, 2022
Friday Jul 1, 2022

WHO still struggling to manage pandemic response

2021 Mar 11, 19:47, GENEVA
In this Monday, February 24, 2020 file photo, Michael Ryan, left, Executive Director of WHO's Health Emergencies programme, next to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, right, Director General of the World Health Organisation, addresses a press conference about the update on COVID-19 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The emergencies chief of the WHO said on Monday March 1, 2021, it was 'premature' and 'unrealistic' to think the pandemic might be stopped by the end of the year, but that the recent arrival of effective vaccines could at least help dramatically reduce hospitalisations and death. (Photo via AP)

When the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic one year ago, it did so only after weeks of resisting the term and maintaining the highly infectious virus could still be stopped.

A year later, the UN agency is still struggling to keep on top of the evolving science of COVID-19, to persuade countries to abandon their nationalistic tendencies and help get vaccines where they’re needed most.

WHO waved its first big warning flag on Jan. 30, 2020, by calling the outbreak an international health emergency.

Only when WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared a “pandemic” six weeks later, on March 11, did most governments take action, experts say. By then, it was too late, and the virus had reached every continent except Antarctica.

The agency made some costly missteps along the way: It advised people against wearing masks for months and asserted that COVID-19 wasn’t widely spread in the air. It also declined to publicly call out countries — particularly China — for mistakes that senior WHO officials grumbled about privately.

Globally, there’s been 118 million coronavirus cases and 2.6 million confirmed deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The United States leads the world with 29 million cases and more than 529,000 deaths.

World Health Organization coronavirus pandemic UN covid-19 WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

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