• By: OLM Staff

China’s President Xi commits 2 billion to WHO’s COVID-19 fight

World Health Organization (WHO) member states have agreed to set up an independent inquiry into the global response to the coronavirus pandemic. The unanimous resolution was approved by the WHOs 194-member annual assembly meeting virtually in Geneva and calls for an impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation of the international response and allows for the inquiry to investigate WHO’s own role. The European Union presented the resolution on behalf of 100 nations. It will also focus on the WHO’s timelines pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic. The resolution also calls for the world to ensure transparent, equitable and timely access to any treatments or vaccines and pushes for the WHO to investigate the source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population.

All countries supported an inquiry into how the pandemic was handled that would answer several key questions as part of any review. EU spokeswoman Virginie Battu-Henriksson said that those questions would include. “How did this pandemic spread and what is the epidemiology behind it?” Battu-Henriksson added that now was not the time for “any sort of blame game.” WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed the review saying that an independent evaluation would look at what lessons could be learned and put forward any recommendations, would take place “at the earliest opportunity.” He also called for the WHO, among other organizations, to be strengthened.

US President Donald Trump has accused the WHO of being too influenced by China and of failing to remain objective in its handling of the outbreak.He claims that the WHO  is unduly influenced by Beijing over the status of Taiwan. Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations or the WHO. However, the WHO does engage and share information with Taiwan.Taiwan alleges it raised the alarm about the possible human-to-human spread of the virus with the WHO at the end of December after some of its scientists had visited Wuhan. But according to a BBC news investigative report, the evidence published so far shows Taiwan's exchanges with the WHO did not specifically mention human-to-human transmission.

Trump has also accused China of trying to cover up the origins of the coronavirus outbreak — something China strongly rejects. Trump's claims completely contradict earlier statements he made on January 24 when he praised China’s initial response to the virus in a tweet where he was ebullient in his support for China’s efforts and personally thanked President Xi for his efforts in combating COVID-19.

Trump has been under growing criticism for his tepid response to the coronavirus pandemic in the United States where more than 1.5 million cases have been reported and over 92,000 people have died since in the past three months. Last week former President Barack Obama called the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus crisis in the United Sates, “an absolute chaotic disaster.” Critics of Trump, (who is facing re-election in November) say he is trying to deflect blame for his poor handling of the pandemic by lashing out and blaming the WHO, first by calling it a “puppet” of China, and then through his suspension of American funding to the global organization. The US is its largest donor.

Chinese President Xi Jinping told the assembly that China had acted “with openness and transparency” and insisted that any investigation should happen after the pandemic was brought under control.“What we are facing is the most serious global public health emergency since the end of World War II. Catching the world by surprise, COVID-19 has hit over 210 countries and regions, affected more than seven billion people around the world and claimed over 300,000 precious lives. I mourn for every life lost and express condolences to the bereaved families”.

Xi said that, “the virus does not respect borders. Nor is race or nationality relevant in the face of the disease. Confronted by the ravages of COVID-19, the international community has not flinched. The people of all countries have tackled the virus head on. Around the world, people have looked out for each other and pulled together as one. With love and compassion, we have forged extraordinary synergy in the fight against COVID-19. In China, after making painstaking efforts and enormous sacrifice, we have turned the tide on the virus and protected the life and health of our people”.

In a firm diplomatic rebuke to President Trump, President XI told the virtual assembly that, “All along, we have acted with openness, transparency and responsibility. We have provided information to WHO and relevant countries in a most timely fashion. We have released the genome sequence at the earliest possible time. We have shared control and treatment experience with the world without reservation. We have done everything in our power to support and assist countries in need”.

Then President Xi presented a list of six proposals to the WHO for moving forward to combat the global pandemic:

First, we must do everything we can for COVID-19 control and treatment. This is a most urgent task. We must always put the people first, for nothing in the world is more precious than people's lives. We need to deploy medical expertise and critical supplies to places where they are needed the most. We need to take strong steps in such key areas as prevention, quarantine, detection, treatment and tracing. We need to move as fast as we can to curb the global spread of the virus and do our best to stem cross-border transmission. We need to step up information sharing, exchange experience and best practice, and pursue international cooperation on testing methods, clinical treatment, and vaccine and medicine research and development. We also need to continue supporting global research by scientists on the source and transmission routes of the virus.

Second, the World Health Organization should lead the global response. Under the leadership of Dr. Tedros, WHO has made a major contribution in leading and advancing the global response to COVID-19. Its good work is applauded by the international community. At this crucial juncture, to support WHO is to support international cooperation and the battle for saving lives as well. China calls on the international community to increase political and financial support for WHO to mobilize resources worldwide to defeat the virus.

Third, we must provide greater support for Africa. Developing countries, African countries in particular, have weaker public health systems. Helping them build capacity must be our top priority in COVID-19 response. The world needs to provide more material, technological and personnel support for African countries. China has sent a tremendous amount of medical supplies and assistance to over 50 African countries and the African Union. Five Chinese medical expert teams have also been sent to the African continent. In total, in the past seven decades, over 200 million people in Africa have received care and treatment from Chinese medical teams. At present, 46 resident Chinese medical teams are in Africa helping with COVID-19 containment efforts locally.

Fourth, we must strengthen global governance in the area of public health. We human beings will eventually prevail over the coronavirus. Yet this may not be the last time a major health emergency comes knocking at our door. In view of the weaknesses and deficiencies exposed by COVID-19, we need to improve the governance system for public health security. We need to respond more quickly to public health emergencies and establish global and regional reserve centers of anti-epidemic supplies. China supports the idea of a comprehensive review of the global response to COVID-19 after it is brought under control to sum up experience and address deficiencies. This work should be based on science and professionalism, led by WHO and conducted in an objective and impartial manner.

Fifth, we must restore economic and social development. While working on an ongoing basis to contain the virus, countries where conditions permit may reopen businesses and schools in an orderly fashion in observance of WHO's professional recommendations. In the meantime, international macroeconomic policy coordination should be stepped up and the global industrial and supply chains be kept stable and unclogged if we are to restore growth to the world economy.

Sixth, we must strengthen international cooperation. Mankind is a community with a shared future. Solidarity and cooperation is our most powerful weapon for defeating the virus. This is the key lesson the world has learned from fighting HIV/AIDS, Ebola, avian influenza, influenza A (H1N1) and other major epidemics. And solidarity and cooperation is a sure way through which we, the people of the world, can defeat this novel coronavirus.

President Xi ended his speech by announcing that China will provide US $2 billion over the next two years to help with the global COVID-19 response and with economic and social development in affected countries, especially developing countries. He committed that China would work with the United Nations to set up a global humanitarian response depot and hub in China to ensure the operation of anti-epidemic supply chains and foster “green corridors” for fast-track transportation and customs clearance. He said China will establish a cooperation mechanism for its hospitals to pair up with 30 African hospitals and accelerate the building of the Africa CDC headquarters to help the continent ramp up its disease preparedness and control capacity.

Xi pledged that any COVID-19 vaccine development and deployment in China, when available, will be made a global public good, and  that this would be China’s contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries.

Xi also committed that China will work with other G20 members to implement the Debt Service Suspension Initiative for the poorest countries, so that they could tide over the current difficulties. At the end of his remarks, President Xi called on all WHO members to “come together and to work as one. Let's make concerted efforts to protect the life and health of people in all countries. Let’s work together to safeguard planet Earth, our common home. Let's work together to build a global community of health for all!”