Allegations Are ‘Untrue, Unacceptable & Distracting’ – WHO Issues Strong Rebuttal To US Claims That China Bought The Director-General
Dr Tedros responds to US Secretary of State allegations that WHO made a deal with China.

In the strongest and most direct rebuttal yet to United States’ allegations of misconduct by the World Health Organization, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus emphatically told reporters on Thursday that claims that he was ‘bought off’ by China are “untrue, without any foundation, and unacceptable.”

Dr Tedros called the allegations a “distraction,” saying politicization of the pandemic would hinder the response.

“Our sole focus is on saving lives. WHO will not be distracted by these comments, and we don’t want the entire international community to also be distracted,” Dr Tedros emphasized. “One of the greatest threats we face continues to be the politicization of the pandemic. COVID-19 does not respect borders, ideologies, or political parties.

“I have said it many times – COVID politics should be quarantined. Politics and partisanship have made things worse.”

Other members of WHO’s core COVID-19 response team, including COVID-19 Technical Lead Maria Van Kerkhove, who is an American citizen, echoed Dr Tedros’ response.

“I feel the need to say something as an American and as a proud WHO employee,”  said Van Kerkhove. “I see firsthand, every day, the work that Dr Tedros, Mike and our teams do all over the world. We are firmly focused on saving lives, we will not be distracted.”

WHO Health Emergencies Executive Director Mike Ryan said that it was important to maintain morale of “front-line workers” at the WHO and around the world. He added that while the the agency had room for growth, Dr Tedros’ leadership had been essential in catalyzing a “transformation in the organization.”

“Many of us have worked 20 hours a day, seven days a week for the past seven months,” said Ryan. “We have for years, sent our people in harm’s way every day. Many of us have spent months and years on the front line, risking our lives, worrying our families.

“None of us are perfect. But we all serve to save lives… We have benefited from [Dr Tedros’] leadership and from a transformation in the organization [that I thought would never come], and I can say this as someone who has spent a quarter of a century associated with this organization.”

WHO Team Growing Weary Of Repeated US Attacks

The WHO team was responding to reports of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s claim that China had ‘bought-off’ Dr Tedros, helping him secure the 2017 election as WHO’s Director-General. The alleged deal led to WHO missteps in handling the pandemic, contributing to “dead Britons,” Pompeo was quoted as saying in The Telegraph while in London on Tuesday. The US Secretary of State reportedly made his remarks in a closed door meeting with British Members of Parliament on Tuesday, according to unnamed sources.

The strong response from the WHO reflected the agency’s growing weariness with US claims attacking WHO’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

In March, the Trump administration threatened to withhold funding from the WHO, claiming that the Organization had yielded to pressure from China to downplay the virus’ seriousness. The ensuing back and forth led to Trump notifying the United Nations and Congress in early July that he was beginning the process to officially withdraw the US from the agency by July 2021.

Dr Tedros’ comments calling the US’ allegations “distracting” echoed comments from critics who have accused the Trump administration of using WHO as a scapegoat for the US’ own botched coronavirus response.

With nearly 4 million cumulative cases and more than 140,000 deaths, the United States has the highest coronavirus burden in the world, and the number of new cases reported daily is rapidly rising. Still, the administration has been pushing for states to reopen, resisted passing a national masking mandate, and encouraged schools to resume in-person learning in the fall, countering advice from their own public health experts.

Cumulative cases of COVID-19 around the world and COVID-19 deaths in the United States (top left) as of 8:00PM CET 23 July 2020, Numbers change rapidly.

 

Image Credits: Johns Hopkins CSSE.