The World Health Assembly on Tuesday agreed to an independent probe into the WHO’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak that has come under criticism from several countries, particularly the United States.
It asks the WHO director general, M. Tedros Adhanom, to have an 'impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation' of the international response to the crisis, including a probe of WHO actions and 'their timelines pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic'.
The resolution, initially drafted by the European Union, was co-sponsored by more than 130 countries.
The Chinese President, Mr. Xi Jinping, which had all along been against a probe into the Covid-19 origin or the response, had on Monday underlined that Beijing was all for a comprehensive probe but only after the world had got a grip on the disease that has impacted infected millions.
But China, which has been accused of concealing information about the disease, had to give up that stance in face of pressure from far too many countries.
The US, which has played a lead role in the campaign against China and the World Health Organisation chief, Mr.Tedros Adhanom, forced the matter by firing a strongly-worded letter threatening to exit the WHO.
The US President, Mr. Donald Trump’s letter, which accused China of hiding crucial information about the disease, was a sharp contrast to the administration’s nominee at the WHA who did not name China through his speech, only referring to Beijing as 'one country'.
The US secretary of health and human services, Mr. Alex Azar, told the World Health Assembly that the pandemic had 'spun out of control' in great part due to a costly 'failure' by the WHO, and called for a more effective world body.
'There was a failure by this organisation to obtain the information that the world needed, and that failure cost many lives,' Mr. Alex Azar told the annual assembly.
The US, which had reservations about a portion of the resolution that also backs the right of poor countries to ignore patents to gain access to a Covid-19 vaccine or treatment, also put aside its concerns to back the resolution that echoed its views on the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Diplomats in Geneva, however, indicate that the final report that emerges at the end of the review of the global response to the outbreak may end up being a balancing act. Since the review would be in consultation with the member states, it is likely that a version which is too harsh would be considered unacceptable by either China or the US.