US-China war of words clouds WHO meet focused on COVID-19 crisis

As the World Health Organization prepares to host its main annual meeting next week, fears abound that US-China tensions could hamper the strong action needed to address the COVID-19 crisis.

Iran PressAmerica: The UN health agency, which for months has been consumed by the towering task of trying to coordinate a global response to the novel Coronavirus pandemic, will for the first time invite health ministers and other dignitaries to participate virtually in its annual meet.

The World Health Assembly, which has been trimmed from the usual three weeks to just two days, on Monday and Tuesday, is expected to focus almost solely on COVID-19, which in a matter of months has killed more than 300,000 globally, and infected nearly 4.5 million, AFP reported.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday the event would be 'one of the most important (WHAs) since we were founded in 1948'.

But the chance of reaching an agreement on global measures to address the crisis could be threatened by steadily deteriorating relations between the world's two largest economies over the pandemic.

"Of course I am concerned at the politicization of the WHA and the risk of its failure," Gian Luca Burci, an adjunct professor at the Geneva Graduate Institute's Global Health Centre, told AFP.

US President Donald Trump this week threatened to cut ties with China, where the outbreak began late last year, over its role in the spread of COVID-19, and has repeatedly made unproven allegations that the virus originated in a Chinese lab.

He has also suspended funding to the WHO over allegations it initially downplayed the seriousness of the outbreak and was kowtowing to Beijing.

Despite the tensions, countries hope to adopt by consensus a resolution urging a joint response to the pandemic.

Consultations around the resolution, tabled by the European Union, concluded this week after 'tough' negotiations, according to Nora Kronig, who heads the international affairs division of Switzerland's public health office.


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