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WHO Chief Pledges Independent Evaluation of Agency’s COVID-19 Response

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends the virtual World Health Assembly, May 18, 2020.

The head of the World Health Organization said Monday he will begin an independent evaluation of the U.N. health agency’s response to the coronavirus pandemic “at the earliest appropriate moment.”

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the pledge after an independent oversight advisory body published its first interim report about the U.N. health agency’s response to COVID-19 from January to April. The 11-page report raised questions such as whether the WHO’s system for alerting the world to outbreaks was adequate, and suggested member states might need to “reassess” its role in providing travel advice to countries. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the virus.

Tedros said he welcomed the review. He also said the organization does “not need a review to tell us that we must all do everything in our power to ensure this never happens again."

The advisory body’s review and recommendations appeared unlikely to appease the United States, which has been scathing in its criticism of the WHO - in part over President Donald Trump’s allegation that it had criticized a U.S. travel ban that he ordered on people arriving from China, where the outbreak first appeared late last year.

Trump ordered a temporary suspension of funding for the WHO from the United States - the health agency’s biggest single donor - pending a review of the agency’s early response. But the review panel, echoing comments from many countries, said such an assessment during the “heat of the response” could hurt the WHO’s ability to respond to it.

The discussion Monday was part of the WHO’s World Health Assembly being held virtually and running through Tuesday. The event usually lasts three weeks.