The World Health Organization (WHO) annual meeting opened on Monday as tensions between Washington and Beijing and controversy arise over the availability of a possible vaccine against coronavirus. Countries demanded that the vaccine be “universally useful” and reform WHO to better respond to pandemics. Antonio Guterres, on the other hand, criticized the countries that “ignored the organization’s recommendations”.
The words are harsh, the observation serious and the excitement palpable. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the ball from the World Health Assembly on Monday, May 18, criticizing the various strategies adopted to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. The WHO has called for the coronavirus virus vaccine to be “a general public good”.
“We have seen solidarity, but very little unity in our response to Covid-19. Countries have followed different strategies, sometimes conflicting, and we all pay a high price,” said Antonio Guterres.
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“Many countries have ignored the recommendations of the World Health Organization. As a result, the virus has spread throughout the world and is now moving to countries in the south where it can have even more devastating effects; and we risk new peaks and new waves,” he added without name the countries concerned.
“I hope the search for a vaccine can be the starting point,” he said, at the meeting which should finally end in the evening and not on Tuesday. This meeting brings together the 194 member countries of the WHO and is held practically for the first time in its history.
Paris and Beijing promise a vaccine that “will be a global public good”
Chinese President Xi Jinping has assured that any Chinese vaccine will become a “global public good” and promises that his country would also spend $ 2 billion over two years on the global fight against Covid-19.
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In a video message, French President Emmanuel Macron also said that if a vaccine is discovered, it will “be a global public that everyone should have access to”.
Despite the escalation of tensions between Washington and Beijing, the countries hope to adopt during this meeting a lengthy resolution implemented by the European Union calling for “universal, rapid and equitable access to all products (…) necessary for the pandemic response” and highlights the role of “large-scale vaccination against Covid-19 as a global public good”.
These statements come after a controversy over a possible vaccine from drug giant Sanofi. The French company had first suggested that the United States could have priority access before switching the gun when Paris considered this option “unacceptable”.
The request for an “evaluation process” of the health response
The text also requires the “as soon as possible (…) of an evaluation process” to begin investigating the international health response and the measures taken by the World Health Organization prior to the pandemic.
He also calls on the WHO to “work closely with the World Organization for Animal Health, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and countries (…) to identify the zoonotic source of the virus and to determine the path it took in the human population, (…) in particular with the help of scientific assignments and assignments for cooperation in the field “.
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Will Washington support a resolution?
It remains to be seen whether the United States will support the resolution that does not require an immediate investigation into the origin of the virus or the measures taken by the WHO in response to the pandemic. Washington, which accuses Beijing of hiding the scale of the epidemic, is engaged in opposition to the WHO, which US President Donald Trump accuses of “planting” itself in managing the pandemic in adapting to the Chinese position.
“I’m not happy with the World Health Organization,” the US President stormed from the White House on Monday. “They are a puppet from China”. When asked about the future of the US contribution to this organization, which he announced in mid-April, Donald Trump remained elusive. “We will make a decision soon,” he said.
The question of the origin of the virus is also poisoning relations between China and the United States. Washington has for several weeks demanded an investigation into the origin of the virus in China, and suspects that Beijing has hidden a laboratory accident that would have been at the origin of the pandemic.
Washington also accuses China of trying to hack US research into a vaccine amid American-European rivalry for a future vaccine. And Donald Trump has threatened to “cut off all relations” with Beijing.
“WHO is replaceable” for Antonio Guterres
In these recommendations, the WHO did not state whether it is appropriate to limit or not, but recommended to screen, isolate and systematically treat all suspected cases. And regardless of the evolution of the epidemic in each country, she demanded to respect and implement physical distance measures to stop the spread of the virus. The countries have followed these recommendations in different ways and in different stages of the pandemic.
“WHO is replaceable. It needs increased resources, especially to provide support to developing countries, which must be our biggest concern,” Antonio Guterres said while the pandemic is developing rapidly in the southern hemisphere and especially in Africa where health systems often fail or even do not exist. .
“Protecting developing countries is not a matter of charity or generosity, but a matter of enlightened common interest. The countries of the north can only overcome Covid-19 if the southern countries neutralize it at the same time,” he insisted.
If the resolution is adopted, “it will be an important result as the WHO will be the first world forum to unanimously find a text,” said a European diplomatic source. “No issue is avoided” in the resolution, which “continues to reform the WHO and, in particular, its capacity which has proved insufficient to prevent a crisis of this magnitude”, this European source told AFP.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus confirmed on Monday already that the WHO had heard the “fast” and “frequent” alarm, and that he would launch an “independent” investigation into the response to the pandemic by the UN agency and its member states “as soon as possible. appropriate time”.