Geneva: The World Health Organization bowed to calls on Monday from most of its member states to launch an independent evaluation of how it managed the international response to the coronavirus, which has been clouded by finger-pointing between the US and China.
However, the comprehensive evaluation," sought by a coalition of African, European and other countries, would stop short of looking into contentious issues such as the origins of the new coronavirus.
US 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 an animal.
WHO's normally bureaucratic annual assembly this week has been overshadowed by mutual recriminations and political sniping between the US and China.
In his opening remarks at the WHO meeting, its chief 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.”
He was speaking hours after Chinese President Xi Jinping announced China would provide $2 billion to help respond to the outbreak and its economic fallout.
Xi insisted that China had acted with “openness, transparency and responsibility" when the epidemic was detected in Wuhan. He said China had given all relevant outbreak data to WHO and other countries, including the virus's genetic sequence, “in a most timely fashion.”
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.