Top threat is not the virus itself, it’s the lack of leadership: WHO chief

Top threat 'is not the virus itself'
WHO chief has condemned a "lack of leadership" in fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Source: Getty Images
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Daily US Times: The director-general of the World Health Organization Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has condemned a “lack of leadership” in fighting the coronavirus pandemic and made an emotional plea for global unity, as cases has been rising in many countries and the world struggles to contain the devastating virus more than six months after it was first identified.

During a passionate speech in Geneva on Thursday, the WHO chief said: “My friends, make no mistake: The greatest threat we face now is not the virus itself. Rather, it’s the lack of leadership and solidarity at the global and national levels.”

His intervention will be seen as a thinly veiled swipe at the world leaders including US President Donald Trump, who has waged a public battle against WHO while failing to suppress the world’s worst Covid-19 outbreak in his own country.

Tedros said: “This is a tragedy that is forcing us to miss many of our friends, losing many lives. We cannot defeat this pandemic as a divided world.”

The US has topped three million confirmed infections earlier this week and is regularly reporting single-day record rises in cases, throwing its early attempts to reopen the economy into chaos.

US President Trump directly accused WHO of aiding China. Source: Getty Images

The situation is almost as bad in other regions. Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has infected Covid-19 after playing down its severity for months.

On Thursday, India announced its biggest single-day rise in cases, and the spread of the virus is picking up pace in Mexico.

Australia, the country had been praised for early success story in the fight against the pandemic, has been forced to seal off more than 6 million people in the state of Victoria after a renewed surge in the disease in Melbourne.

“How is it difficult for humans to unite to fight a common enemy that’s killing people indiscriminately?” Tedros asked, adding that “Are we unable to distinguish or identify the common enemy? Can’t we understand that the divisions or the cracks between us actually are the advantage for the virus?”

He urged a coming-together of global powers to surpass the lack of leadership, telling attendees in the WHO meeting: “Covid-19 is a test of global solidarity and global leadership.”

Tedros’ comments come days after the Trump administration told the United Nations and Congress that the US is formally withdrawing from WHO.

The withdrawal will go into effect next July. Trump administration’s decision to withdraw itself from the global health body has drawn criticism from bipartisan lawmakers, medical associations, advocacy organizations and allies abroad.

On Tuesday, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden vowed to reverse the decision “on (his) first day” if elected.

Sen. Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee tweeted on Tuesday: “Congress received notification that POTUS officially withdrew the U.S. from the WHO in the midst of a pandemic. To call Trump’s response to COVID chaotic & incoherent doesn’t do it justice. This won’t protect American lives or interests—it leaves Americans sick & America alone.”

A State Department official also confirmed that “the US’ notice of withdrawal from WHO, has been submitted to the UN Secretary-General, who is the depository for the organization.” The spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General said he had received the notice and “is in the process of verifying with the World Health Organization whether all the conditions for such withdrawal are met.” Those conditions “include giving a one-year notice and fully meeting the payment of assessed financial obligations.”

Cases has been rising in many countries.

A source told CNN that letter addressed to the UN is very short, around three sentences and it triggers a one-year withdrawal timeline. However, this source also cautioned that they cannot confirm they saw the final version of the letter.

Trump had denounced the US’ contribution to the WHO in comparison to China’s and he consistently accused the organization of aiding China in allegedly covering up the origins of the virus and allowing its spread across the world.

US President directly accused the WHO of being too China-centric and failing to contain the pandemic in its early days. But the leaders of virtually every other major nation, including the UK, France and Germany, have stood by the agency during the crisis.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday said the pandemic has exposed the dangers of “fact-denying populism” around the world.

“We have seen lies and disinformation, and that is no way to fight the pandemic,” she told the European Parliament in Brussels.

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