The European Union and other countries on Monday called for an independent evaluation of the World Health Organization’s response to the coronavirus pandemic “to review experience gained and lessons learned.”
The resolution has the support of more than half of WHO’s member countries and will be discussed this week at the decision-making body of the U.N. health agency, being held virtually this year.
The proposal is intended to initiate “a stepwise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of WHO’s efforts to coordinate the international response to COVID-19, including the functioning of international health law and its actions within the greater U.N. health system.
The move comes amid Australia’s call for an independent inquiry into the origins of the pandemic and WHO’s response to it – and after U.S. President Donald Trump’s repeated accusations that WHO helped China cover up the extent of the initial COVID-19 outbreak. Trump has also called for an immediate halt to all U.S. funding to the U.N. health agency.
The EU resolution proposes that the independent evaluation should be initiated “at the earliest appropriate moment” and should, among other issues, examine “the actions of WHO and their timelines pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pledged Monday to launch an independent probe to review the coronavirus pandemic response as soon as possible.
"I will initiate an independent evaluation at the earliest appropriate moment to review experience gained and lessons learned and to make recommendations to improve national and global pandemic preparedness and response," he said at the start of the WHO's annual World Health Assembly.
WHO announced the coronavirus outbreak to be a global health emergency on Jan. 30, its highest level of alert. In the following weeks, WHO warned countries there was a narrowing “window of opportunity” to prevent the virus from spreading globally.
WHO officials, however, repeatedly described the transmission of the virus as “limited” and said it wasn’t as transmissible as flu; experts have since said COVID-19 spreads even faster. It declared the outbreak to be a pandemic on March 11, after the virus had killed thousands globally and sparked large epidemics in South Korea, Italy, Iran and elsewhere.