WHO overestimated rich nations’ ability to fight the pandemic

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Emergency Operations Chief Mike Ryan has remarked that The health systems of wealthy countries performed more poorly than expected during the early phase of the COVID-19 crisis.

The Operations Chief said at a press briefing that it was surprising to see how slowly countries adopted the necessary health strategies. His observations were as a result of the organization’s summing up lessons learned in the six months since it declared a global health emergency over the novel coronavirus outbreak at the end of January.

“We are learning lessons that there has been deep underinvestment in public health architecture,” Dr. Ryan added.

The WHO traditionally provides operational help on the ground in developing and middle-income countries.

“If I could go back and change anything I think I would [offer direct assistance] to countries where I think we made some assumptions on capacities that existed, and skills and workforces that maybe should have existed or should have been expanded,” Dr. Ryan replied.

WHO’s Chief COVID-19 scientist Maria Van Kerkhove pointed out that her agency had already drawn up international guidance on how to find infections, protect health workers and prepare for outbreaks in the second week of January.

Even though some countries were slow at the beginning, the examples of South Korea, Italy, Spain and Germany showed that it was possible to turn the tide and suppress the virus, she added.