WHO chief pledges to work closely with Biden team

Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Ghebreyesus, has welcomed efforts to strengthen the organisation through reform and pledged to work closely with the administration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden.

Tedros who made the pledge on Monday said the organisation’s funding must become more flexible and predictable to end a “major misalignment” between expectations and available resources, citing reform efforts by France, Germany and the EU.

“We still have a lot of work left to do, but we believe that we’re on the right track,” Tedros told health ministers as the annual meeting resumed of the WHO, which groups 194 countries.

U.S. President Donald Trump had frozen U.S. funding to the WHO and begun a process that would see the U.S. withdraw from the body next July, drawing wide international criticism amid the COVID-19 crisis.

He accused the WHO of being “China-centric” in its handling of the pandemic, which Tedros has repeatedly denied.

Biden, who will convene a national Coronavirus task force on Monday, said during campaigning he would rescind Trump’s decision to abandon the WHO on his first day in office.

Tedros urged the international community to recapture a sense of common purpose, adding: “In that spirit we congratulate President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and we look forward to working with this administration very closely.

“We need to reimagine leadership, build on mutual trust and mutual accountability to end the pandemic and address the fundamental inequalities that lie at the root of so many of the world’s problems,” he said.

An oversight panel called last week for reforms at the WHO including “predictable and flexible” funding and setting up a multi-tiered system to warn countries earlier about disease outbreaks before they escalate.

Tedros, speaking from quarantine after being in contact with an individual with COVID-19 more than a week ago, began with a minute’s silence, noting that COVID-19 cases approached 50 million with 1.2 million deaths.

Speaking shortly before Pfizer Inc said its experimental COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90 per cent effective, Tedros said vaccines being developed to curb the pandemic should be allocated fairly as “global public goods, not private commodities”.

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