If there is a key message from the 73rd session of the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, held early this week, it is global solidarity in fighting the novel coronavirus pandemic and support for the WHO which has led the fight over the past months. In their speeches at the session, top leaders from countries such as China, the Republic of Korea, South Africa, Germany, France, Spain and Italy sent this message loud and clear.
President Xi Jinping, in his speech on Monday, pledged that China will provide US$2 billion over two years for helping other countries overcome the impact of the pandemic. He also said that if China develops a vaccine for COVID-19, it will be made a global public good.
The WHA adopted a resolution to bring the world together to fight COVID-19, and called for intensified efforts to control the pandemic, and for equitable access to and fair distribution of all essential medical technologies and products.
However, the US president sent an accusatory letter to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday, which was clearly aimed at undermining the global solidarity at a critical time. In the letter, the US leader has blamed the WHO and China for failing to control the spread of the virus, and threatened to permanently halt US funding to the WHO and withdraw the US from the world health body if "substantive" improvements are not made in 30 days.
Many accusations in the four-page letter are factually incorrect, such as the email Taiwan supposedly sent to the WHO on Dec 31, which the WHO has clarified multiple times.
According to a Pew survey released on Wednesday, a large majority of Americans said Germany and the ROK have done a good or excellent job in dealing with the pandemic, while only a minority said the same about the US
Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, said on Tuesday that the US' attack on the WHO, by referring to his peer-reviewed medical journal, was wrong. The journal did not publish any report in early December about a virus spreading in Wuhan, he said, adding that the first reports it published were from Chinese scientists on Jan 24 this year.
The Washington Post has also run a fact check, listing many factual errors in the letter.
When I asked Tedros on Wednesday if he would respond to the letter, he said he is "looking into it". To me, it is a euphemism for dismissing the accusations which are full of speculative words such as "likely" and "reportedly".
For sure, US experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institute of Health would not endorse such a slanderous letter. While Washington has indulged in such blame games for quite some time, the letter and a divisive speech on Monday by US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar have made the world once again realize how disruptive the superpower is even in times of a global public health crisis.
Given its prestigious public health institutions, the US has shocked the world with its extremely poor performance in containing the spread of the virus; as a result, it now accounts for the highest numbers of infections and deaths in the world.
According to a Pew survey released on Wednesday, a large majority of Americans said Germany and the ROK have done a good or excellent job in dealing with the pandemic, while only a minority said the same about the US.
The disastrous US response has much to do with the upcoming presidential election, with Republicans and Democrats sharply divided over how to contain the pandemic－for example, wearing or not wearing a mask is sadly a partisan issue in the US－even though the coronavirus does not discriminate between political parties.
US politicians will play more blame games leading up to the Nov 3 presidential election, but we should not let them undermine the global solidarity and support for the WHO.
The author is chief of China Daily EU Bureau based in Brussels.
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