U.S. President Donald Trump has claimed he has proof suggesting the coronavirus originated in a lab in China, in a May 18, 2020 story. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

U.S. President Donald Trump has claimed he has proof suggesting the coronavirus originated in a lab in China, in a May 18, 2020 story. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

WHO bows to calls from countries for independent virus probe

Finger-pointing between the U.S. and China

GENEVA — The World Health Organization bowed to calls Monday from most of its member states to launch an independent probe into how it managed the international response to the coronavirus, which has been clouded by finger-pointing between the U.S. and China over a pandemic that has killed over 300,000 people and levelled the global economy.

The “comprehensive evaluation,” sought by a coalition of African, European and other countries, is intended to review “lessons learned” from WHO’s co-ordination of the global response to COVID-19, but would stop short of looking into contentious issues such as the origins of the new coronavirus. U.S. President Donald Trump has claimed he has proof suggesting the coronavirus originated in a lab in China while the scientific community has insisted all evidence to date shows the virus likely jumped into humans from animals.

In Washington on Monday, Trump faulted WHO for having done “a very sad job” and said he was considering whether to cut the annual U.S. funding from $450 million a year to $40 million.

“They gave us a lot of bad advice, terrible advice,” he said. “They were wrong so much, always on the side of China.”

Later Monday, Trump tweeted a letter he had sent WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. In the letter, Trump said “the only way forward” is if WHO “can actually demonstrate independence from China.”

Trump said that unless WHO commits to “substantive improvements over the next 30 days,” he will make a temporary suspension of U.S. funding permanent.

WHO’s normally bureaucratic annual assembly this week has been overshadowed by mutual recriminations and political sniping between the U.S. and China. Trump has repeatedly attacked WHO, claiming that it helped China conceal the extent of the coronavirus pandemic in its early stages. Several Republican lawmakers have called on Tedros to resign.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Monday it was time to be frank about why COVID-19 has “spun out of control.”

“There was a failure by this organization to obtain the information that the world needed and that failure cost many lives,” Azar said. Speaking hours after Chinese President Xi Jinping announced China would provide $2 billion to help respond to the outbreak and its economic fallout, Azar said the U.S. had allocated $9 billion to coronavirus containment efforts around the world.

Tedros said he would launch an independent evaluation of WHO’s response “at the earliest appropriate moment” — alluding to findings published Monday in a first report by an oversight advisory body commissioned to look into WHO’s response.

The 11-page report raised questions such as whether WHO’s warning system for alerting the world to outbreaks is adequate, and suggested member states might need to “reassess” WHO’s role in providing travel advice to countries.

In his opening remarks at the WHO meeting, Tedros held firm and sought to focus on the bigger troubles posed by the outbreak, saying “we have been humbled by this very small microbe.”

“This contagion exposes the fault lines, inequalities, injustices and contradictions of our modern world,” Tedros said. “And geopolitical divisions have been thrown into sharp relief.”

China, meanwhile, sought to divert attention to its renewed efforts to slow the coronavirus pandemic, with Xi announcing the $2 billion outlay over two years to fight it. Last year, China donated about $86 million to WHO.

U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot characterized China’s newly announced contribution as “a token to distract from calls from a growing number of nations demanding accountability for the Chinese government’s failure to meet its obligations.” He said that since China was “the source” of the outbreak, it had “a special responsibility to pay more and give more.”

Xi insisted that China had acted with “openness, transparency and responsibility” when the epidemic was detected in Wuhan. He said China had give all relevant outbreak data to WHO and other countries, including the virus’s genetic sequence, “in a most timely fashion.”

Xi said that in recent weeks, China has dispatched medical supplies to more than 50 African countries and that 46 Chinese medical teams were currently on the continent helping local officials.

Other world leaders including the presidents of France, South Korea and South Africa and Germany’s chancellor were also piped in to throw their support to the WHO, which has been put on the defensive from a Trump administration that has blamed it for mishandling the outbreak and showering excessive praise on China’s response. The European Union and others staked out a middle ground.

The Trump administration has claimed that WHO criticized a U.S. travel ban that Trump ordered on people arriving from China.

Trump ordered a temporary suspension of funding for WHO from the United States — the health agency’s biggest single donor — pending a review of its early response. The advisory body, echoing comments from many countries, said such a review during the “heat of the response” could hurt WHO’s ability to respond to it.

Xi said China supports the idea of a comprehensive review of the global response to COVID-19 and that it should be “based on science and professionalism led by WHO, and conducted in an objective and impartial manner.”

Tedros emphasized that WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a global health emergency on Jan. 30, its highest level of alert, at a time when there were fewer than 100 cases outside of China. In the following weeks, WHO warned countries there was a narrowing “window of opportunity” to prevent the virus from spreading globally.

During the first few months of the outbreak, WHO officials repeatedly described the virus’s spread 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.

By The Associated Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The concept design for the spray park and playground in Pogadl Park. (Photo Courtesy of Canadian Recreation Solutions)
Sylvan Lake spray park tentatively scheduled to open next year

Sylvan Lake Town Council approved the tender of the spray park and playground in Pogadl Park

Alberta's chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says Albertans need to keep making safe choices to start bending the curve back down. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
One new COVID-19 death in Red Deer, 257 additional cases province-wide

Red Deer sits at 459 active cases of the virus

One of the oil paintings stolen from a season home near the boat launch on Kuusamo Krest. (Photo Submitted)
Sylvan Lake RCMP search for paintings stolen from vacation home

Three original paintings were reportedly stolen from a seasonal home

A lone skater practises his shot on a melting outdoor rink recently. As of March 2, all outdoor skating rinks, including the ones on the lake, are closed for the season. (Photo Submitted by Town of Sylvan Lake)
All outdoor skating rinks in Sylvan Lake closed for the season

The Town announced Tuesday morning the rinks on the lake were also closed due to the warm weather

A health-care worker looks at a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Palais de Congress site as Quebec begins mass vaccinations based on age across the province, Monday, March 1, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Nearly 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses arriving in Canada this week: Anand

Anita Anand says she’s received assurances from the vaccine manufacturer

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

hands
The call is out in Rimbey to sign on with a group that is all about building connections

‘Already, we are building a network where we can rely on each other and help each other out’

FILE - Dolly Parton arrives at the 61st annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Grammy-winning singer, actor and humanitarian posted a video on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, of her singing just before getting her COVID-19 vaccine shot. Parton donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee for coronavirus research. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
‘Vaccine, vaccine’: Dolly sings ‘Jolene’ rewrite before shot

The Grammy-winning legend turned 75 this year

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland speaks about the Fiscal update during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday November 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
COVID-19: Wage and rent subsidies, lockdown support to be extended until June

Chrystia Freeland says now is not time to lower levels of support

Many rural seniors are having to travel a long way to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Stettler residents are being told to go to Red Deer, Drumheller or Camrose. (Black Press file photo).
Rural central Alberta seniors have to travel far to get vaccines

Stettler residents are being directed to Red Deer, Drumheller or Camrose clinics

Samantha Sharpe, 25, was stabbed to death at Sunchild First Nation on Dec. 12, 2018. Chelsey Lagrelle was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for manslaughter in a Red Deer courtroom on Tuesday. Photo contributed
Central Alberta woman sentenced to 4 1/2 years for stabbing friend to death in 2018

Chelsey Lagrelle earlier pleaded guilty to stabbing Samantha Sharpe during argument

Calgary police say they received 80 hate crime complaints between January and November 2020. (Pixabay)
‘Racism is a real problem:’ Muslim women fearful following attacks in Edmonton

So far in 2021, three of seven hate-crime-related investigations have involved Somali-Muslim women

Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro speaks during a news conference in Calgary on May 29, 2020. Shandro says Alberta is considering whether to extend the time between COVID-19 vaccine shots to four months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta may follow B.C.’s lead on faster rollout of first COVID-19 dose

Tyler Shandro says a committee of COVID-19 experts is analyzing emerging data and a decision is coming

Most Read