The World Health Organization is attempting to quell an outpouring of criticism over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic by pledging to conduct an investigation into “lessons learned” about its global response.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pledged during Monday’s World Health Assembly that an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” would take place “at the earliest appropriate moment.”
The probe will review the “lessons learned from the WHO-coordinated international health response to COVID-19, including … the actions of WHO and their timelines pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The move is a partial nod to the calls by over 100 countries for an independent probe of the origins of and response to the pandemic.
With the WHO running the investigation, however, the move does not address the calls for the embattled agency to be probed as part of the inquiry.
China, which had spent weeks rejecting calls for an inquiry into the virus’ origins, came around in recent days after the idea of an inquiry focused on “global response” in fighting COVID-19 instead of questioning its source was proposed.
In his speech at the assembly Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping demanded that the WHO conduct the investigation itself and not begin examining the matter until after the virus “is brought under control,” something that could take years.
Xi said he supports endeavors to take lessons away from the pandemic to make improvements ahead of future health emergencies, and would back an “objective and impartial” review.
The Chinese president also attempted to soften global attitudes toward the Communist country by pledging $2 billion in aid toward fighting the coronavirus as well as to dispatch doctors and medical supplies to developing nations.
The stance marks a shift from China’s position on the issue last month, when the Communist regime threatened to cut its trade ties with Australia after the country called for a probe into the virus’ origins.
After Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an investigation, China’s ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, warned that Chinese consumers could boycott Australian products and universities if the inquiry continued.
Morrison has doubled down since then, saying his desire for an evaluation was part of an effort to prevent such a pandemic from happening again.
“This is a virus that has taken more than 200,000 lives across the world. It has shut down the global economy. The implications and impacts of this are extraordinary,” he said.
“Now, it would seem entirely reasonable and sensible that the world would want to have an independent assessment of how this all occurred, so we can learn the lessons and prevent it from happening again.”
In mid-April, President Trump announced a cut to US funding for the WHO until a review was completed into its relationship with China and the early days of the outbreak.
Last week, he agreed to resume partial payments to the embattled organization, but said the US would only match what China currently pays in contributions.
Chinese President Xi JinpingXie Huanchi/Xinhua via AP
On Monday, he revealed a letter he sent to the director-general threatening to permanently cease US funding to the agency if it did not commit to “substantive improvements” within the next 30 days.
“It is my duty, as President of the United States, to inform you that, if the World Health Organization does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of United States funding to the World Health Organization permanent and reconsider our membership in the organization,” the commander-in-chief wrote.
“I cannot allow American taxpayer dollars to continue to finance an organization that, in its present state, is so clearly not serving America’s interests,” the letter continued.