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WHO comes under fire for COVID-19 response but wins support

Published : Apr 15, 2020 12:41 IST


Walk-in Sample Kiosk (WISK) to test for COVID-19 set up at Ernakulam Medical College in Kerala on April 6.

Walk-in Sample Kiosk (WISK) to test for COVID-19 set up at Ernakulam Medical College in Kerala on April 6.

Even as United States President Donald Trump seeks to deflect criticism and blames, among others, the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the massive number of infections and deaths in the U.S. and other countries, not many leaders have come out in support of the WHO. Trump claimed that the WHO “severely mismanaged and covered up” the spread of the virus across the world”.

However, responding to Trump’s threat of freezing funds to the WHO, the United Nations said that this was not the time to reduce the resources for the operations of the WHO or any other humanitarian organisation in the fight against COVID-19. Its Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said: “Now is the time for unity, for international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences.”

“Halting funding for the World Health Organisation during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds,” tweeted Bill Gates, Microsoft founder, who is among the biggest philanthropists in the world today. “Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organisation can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever,” he said on April 15.

Gates has 49.6 million followers on Twitter. His wife, Melinda Gates, who has been sharing her concern over the possible spread of the virus in developing countries tweeted this exact message too. On April 15, the Gates Foundation declared on Twitter: “The work of the @WHO is critical. We’re proud to be their partner.”

Abdul El-Sayed, epidemiologist and a sought-after public health commentator who authored the book Healing Politics , commented that “defunding the WHO in the middle of a global pandemic would be like having shut down air traffic control on the morning of 9/11”.

Meanwhile, the world was on the threshold of two million Covid 19 cases, and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the WHO, said that the organisation was updating its global response strategy to support countries to save lives and stop the virus. “Some countries and communities have endured several weeks of social and economic restrictions. Some countries are considering when they can lift these restrictions,” Dr Tedros said. “Others are considering whether and when to introduce them. In both cases, these decisions must be based first and foremost on protecting human health, and guided by what we know about the virus and how it behaves.”

He listed six criteria for lifting restrictions: control of transmission; ensuring health system capacities are in place to detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact; minimising outbreak risks in special settings such as health facilities and nursing homes; putting in place preventive measures in the workplace, educational institutions and places that people frequent; managing risks of import of new cases from abroad and community engagement to deal with the new reality.



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