The first news about a novel virus which causes flu like symptoms that potentially kills the patient it infects came out sometime in early January. It was right after Chinese New Year and the cases were reported to be happening in China with provincial region Wuhan identified as the locale.
Within days the cases exploded with tens of thousands infected and hundreds were dying on a daily basis, people were calling it the Wuhan virus until scientist managed to trace the virus to a corona strain, similar variant that causes SARS and MERS. World Health Organisation (WHO) who had been monitoring the situation in China was reporting the incidents and called for China to provide more updates on the situation. BY then 5 million Chinese had already left Wuhan for the lunar new year and were now holidaying all over the world. We all know what happened next and where is the world today in fighting the virus.
IN his briefing addressing the issue on the pandemic, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the body had declared COVID-19 a global emergency, the highest level of alert, at the right time.
“Looking back, I think we declared an emergency, at the right time… when the rest of the world had enough time to respond,” Tedros told a virtual press briefing.
The announcement of course was done on January 30 calling the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), sending the highest level of alarm to the world. It was close to 3 months ago when there were 82 cases and no deaths outside China.
But there are those asking questions on the Director Generals actions and response to the outbreak, the loudest coming from non other than the President of United States of America. Donald Trump accuses WHO delayed in warning Europe and US, covering up the outbreak and backing China too much. However, we do know Trumps tirade sometimes borders on the absurd and exaggeration but one has to consider does he have a case this time? The President has since instructed White House to stop all financial funding to the organisation, a drastic move unless he has evidence to back that claim.
A global pandemic of this magnitude requires early intervention with clear precise management in preventing an outbreak, every day or hour that passes by means lives could be lost. Many nations felt they were caught off-guard, with no clear warnings or information of the virus or its nature. In other words the claim WHO did not use its network and have all the nations highest authority act urgently and immediately. The outbreak was only labelled as a Pandemic by the body on March 11 after the spread reached certain number of countries.
WHO argues that no time was wasted and the declaration was made appropriately, at that time, what was reported from Europe was ten cases — five from France, one from Finland, and four from Germany, while no case had been reported yet in Africa, suggesting it was possible to cut transmission chains.
Declaration for a global emergency does not come from the Director General also explained Tedros, the PHEIC declaration came after a closed-door meeting of the Emergency Committee on the same day, when health experts from around the world were convinced and reached the consensus that the criteria of global emergency were met.
“And that consensus led to a declaration of global emergency from the WHO, which I announced it myself,” he concluded.
This debate will continue for months to come with no clear winner, but for now we need to focus all efforts and energy to stop this virus in hurting more people, for this the politics has to stop now.