Demand for evaluation of WHO's virus response as nations reopen

Updated: 19 May, 2020 08:46 IST | Agencies | Geneva

The resolution has the support of over half of WHO's member countries and will be discussed this week at the decision-making body of the WHO, being held virtually this year

People walk on the rue Neuve-Nieuwstraat shopping street in central Brussels
People walk on the rue Neuve-Nieuwstraat shopping street in central Brussels

The European Union and other countries on Monday called for an independent evaluation of the World Health Organisation's response to the novel Coronavirus pandemic "to review experience gained and lessons learned", even as several of them reopened after weeks of lockdown.

The resolution has the support of over half of WHO's member countries and will be discussed this week at the decision-making body of the WHO, being held virtually this year. The proposal is intended to initiate "a stepwise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation" of WHO's efforts to coordinate the international response to COVID-19, including the functioning of international health law and its actions within the greater UN health system.

Huawei employees eat their lunch in a cafeteria at the company's headquarters in Shenzhen, China
Huawei employees eat their lunch in a cafeteria at the company's headquarters in Shenzhen, China

The move comes amid Australia's call for an independent inquiry into the origins of the pandemic and WHO's response to it — and after US President Donald Trump's repeated accusations that WHO helped China cover up the extent of the initial COVID-19 outbreak.

Markets reopen
Europe reopened more widely on Monday, allowing people into the Acropolis in Athens, shops in Italy, markets and museums in Belgium, garden stores in Ireland and beer gardens in Bavaria while its leaders discussed how to salvage Europe's hallowed summer vacations. New infections and deaths have slowed considerably in Europe.

Schoolchildren wearing face masks enter Claude Debussy college in Angers, France, as countries ease lockdown measures to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pics/AFP
Schoolchildren wearing face masks enter Claude Debussy college in Angers, France, as countries ease lockdown measures to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pics/AFP

Many nations are now preparing to open their borders next month, trying to sketch out the parameters for a highly unusual tourist season. Germany's foreign minister, who was discussing the options Monday with colleagues from 10 largely southern European countries, cautioned that this year's holidays will be like no other.

Greece reopened the Acropolis in Athens and other ancient sites, along with high schools, shopping malls and mainland travel. Tourists were local, for the country still has a 14-day quarantine for arrivals, and travel to the Greek islands remains broadly restricted.

Students return to school
In Belgium, more students returned to school, hairdressers began clipping locks again and museums and zoos opened their doors, all with strict reservation systems to avoid overcrowding.

Some stores reopened in Ireland but Health Minister Simon Harris said he's still nervous because the virus hasn't gone away. Churches in Italy and at the Vatican resumed public Masses.

'COVID-19 vaccine not coming soon'

The European Medicines Agency's executive director said on Monday a COVID-19 vaccine won't be available soon and that even when one is ready, production won't be sufficient to offer protection to the world's population. Guido Rasi told European lawmakers a vaccine against the virus is one year away at best. Even then, Rasi said there won't be enough doses for the entire population. He said a coordinated approach at the European level will be key to identifying those who will benefit the most from the vaccine. "We will need to have one holistic model to create the first ring of defense in the general population."

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First Published: 19 May, 2020 07:45 IST

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