Panel reviewing WHO's response to Covid-19 will ask 'hard questions'

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GENEVA An independent panel set up to review the global response to the pandemic was announced yesterday.

It will ask "hard questions" and has been assured of access to the records of the World Health Organisation (WHO), its co-chairs said.

"This is a strong panel, poised to ask the hard questions," co-chair Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a former President of Liberia, told a news conference.

It would examine "actions of WHO and their timelines pertaining to the Covid-19 pandemic", she said.

Co-chair Helen Clark, a former prime minister of New Zealand, said: "For WHO, they have made clear that their files are open book. Anything we want to see, we see."

Among panel members are former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo and Britain's former foreign secretary David Miliband. It will meet about every six weeks starting this month to April and will make a presentation to the WHO's executive board in October, it said.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said when announcing the launch of the panel in July that it would provide an interim report to an annual meeting of health ministers resuming in November and present a "substantive report" next May.

Dr Tedros said the review was in line with a resolution adopted by its 194 member countries last May calling for an evaluation of the global response.

US President Donald Trump's administration has strongly criticised the WHO's role in the crisis, accusing it of being too close to China and not doing enough to question Beijing's actions late last year when the virus first emerged.

Dr Tedros has dismissed the accusations. - REUTERS