WHO independent investigation team: pandemic could have been avoided

It has been more than a year since the Wuhan pneumonia (novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19) outbreak began, with more than 159 million confirmed cases and more than 3 million deaths. The World Health Organization (WHO) independent panel of inquiry noted that the WHO itself and many governments missed opportunities to respond properly, otherwise the pandemic could have been avoided.

The independent panel said the WHO and global governments responded like a “toxic cocktail,” arguing that the WHO should have issued a global emergency earlier and that without significant improvements in the future, the world would still be unable to stave off the next possible major disease epidemic.

Panel co-chair Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former president of Liberia, said, “The situation we find ourselves in today is avoidable and is the result of massive failures, disconnects and delays in preparation and response.”

The independent panel noted that the WHO Emergency Committee should have decisively declared the China outbreak an international emergency when it first met on January 22 last year, rather than waiting until January 30 and countries failing to take appropriate measures to stop the spread of the virus in the month that followed.

The Independent Panel believes that the WHO’s guideline of considering travel restrictions as a last resort has hampered itself; the United States and Europe wasted the entire month of February, only doing something when hospitals were full.