By VOA NewsMay 12, 2021 10:10 AM
The leaders of independent panel charged with examining the cause and response of the COVID-19 pandemic Wednesday called for a better, more cooperative and transparent global system for dealing with future worldwide health emergencies.
The independent panel was formed last year by World Health Organization ((WHO)) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the request of the organization’s membership.
Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who led the panel, told reporters Wednesday in a virtual presentation, the pandemic is an ongoing disaster that could have been prevented.
Their report said coordinated, global leadership was absent, and global tensions undermined efforts by international, multilateral institutions to take cooperative action.
Clark said the crisis was exacerbated by a slow and weak World Health Organization ((WHO)). She said while the virus was spreading, “information was being hoarded and decisions were delayed whilst waiting on responses to laborious exchanges of official emails.”
The independent panel faulted countries worldwide for their “wait and see” approach, rather than enacting aggressive containment strategies that might have slowed or prevented the crisis. The group also criticized restrictive international health laws that hindered the WHO’s response.
Close to 160 million cases have been recorded globally, along with more than 3.3 million deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.
In its final report, the panel made a series of recommendations, such as creating a global health threats council through the United Nations. It would include heads of state, giving the WHO more power and financial independence and have it work with the World Trade Organization, vaccine-producing countries and manufacturers to quickly reach deals to boost the world’s global supply of coronavirus shots.
The panel also suggested that Tedros, WHO’s current director-general, should be limited to a single seven-year term. As it stands, the WHO chief is elected to a five-year term that can be renewed once.
Following the presentation, Tedros thanked the panel’s leaders and its members for their work. He said he looked forward to discussing their recommendations with WHO’s member states “to build a stronger WHO and a healthier, safer, fairer future for all of us.”