WHO's in Charge?

A man wearing a face mask holds a portrait outside the Biandanshan cemetery in Wuhan. March 31, 2020.  Image: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty

After multiple delays and a 14-day quarantine, WHO investigators charged with uncovering the pandemic’s origins are finally set to begin work in China this week.
 
Families of Chinese COVID-19 victims want their story heard. They’re demanding accountability from a government they say downplayed the virus, dismissed families’ lawsuits, and disabled their chat groups before the WHO team arrived in Wuhan, AP reports.
 
And in recorded WHO meetings, officials privately lamented China’s lack of transparency even as it publicly praised Beijing’s leadership.
 
This disconnect has been fundamental to lingering questions about the agency's handling of the pandemic—and calls to reform WHO more generally.
 
With no enforcement power, there’s little WHO can do to force China’s hand.
 
And that’s true of all member states. When WHO rang its loudest global alarm bell in January by declaring a public health emergency of international concern, countries mostly ignored it, Nature’s Amy Maxmen reports. Reports from the WHO and an independent panel look into why.  
 
“The real question is, what would it take for people to do something when a declaration happens?” says Joanne Liu, a member of the independent panel.
 
That question is front and center at the WHO's executive board meeting, which closes out today.
 

Related:
 
'Everything broke': global health leaders on what went wrong in the pandemic. – NPR

Covid-19: Five days that shaped the outbreak – BBC

WHO in Wuhan is probing Covid's origins as politics hangs over mission – NBC News

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