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Health panel criticises slow response to initial Covid outbreaks

A PANEL tasked with reviewing the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic has criticised China and the World Health Organisation (WHO) for allegedly slow responses to the new virus a year ago.

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response was commissioned by the WHO in July in response to calls from the European Union and United States for a probe.

The WHO has previously praised China for sharing the virus’s genome sequence in record time, and warning other countries of the highly infectious new disease by January 3.

Despite warnings, countries including Britain and the United States took no action to prepare for the virus until late March.

The panel criticised the WHO for not declaring an international emergency until January 30 and not using the term “pandemic” until March 11. 

It said that “many countries took minimal action to prevent the spread” of the virus and accused China of “lost opportunities to apply basic public health measures at the earliest opportunity.”

China declared a lockdown in Hubei province, where the virus originated, on January 23 last year and its test, trace, isolate and support programme allowed it to lift most restrictions in April.

Virus deaths in China, at under 5,000, remain vastly lower than in the US and most EU countries.

China’s Global Times newspaper retorted that Western governments should address the “catastrophic moral failure” slammed this week by WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus, who said wealthy countries were monopolising available vaccine doses.

“The US, the UK and Canada all shout loudly for developing countries’ human rights.

“But they are the ones contributing to a ‘catastrophic moral failure’,” it said, saying Chinese-produced vaccines had become “a key resource to break rich countries’ privilege and safeguard developing countries’ rights.”

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