May 26, 2020 | 2:01pm | Updated May 26, 2020 | 2:22pm
A top official with the World Health Organization is heaping renewed praise on China for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying the organization appreciates the Communist country’s “openness” to international efforts to probe the origin of the virus.
Speaking at a news conference Monday in Geneva, Switzerland, Dr. Michael Ryan, the WHO’s health emergencies chief, praised what he described as China’s “consistent message” of willingness to help the international community understand the origins of the virus.
Ryan said any scientific mission to identify the source of the global health emergency should include “the right mix of scientific experts from a multinational perspective.”
“We’ve been in discussions day to day with our colleagues in China about putting together the necessary scientific inquiries into the origin of the virus,” he said of efforts to organize the investigation.
“I think the authorities in China, governments around the world and ourselves are very keen to understand the animal origin of the virus itself. And I am very pleased to hear a very consistent message coming from China, which is one of openness to such an approach,” he continued.
The health emergency chief’s comments come as the agency hopes to quell an outpouring of criticism over its handling of the pandemic and its relationship with China.
In mid-April, President Trump announced a cut to US funding for the WHO until a review was completed into its relationship with China and the early days of the outbreak.
In May, he agreed to resume partial payments to the embattled organization, but said the US would only match what China currently pays in contributions.
Last Monday, he revealed a letter he sent to the director-general threatening to permanently cease US funding to the agency if it did not commit to “substantive improvements” within the next 30 days.
“I cannot allow American taxpayer dollars to continue to finance an organization that, in its present state, is so clearly not serving America’s interests,” the commander-in-chief wrote in his letter.
Since then, the WHO has pledged to conduct an investigation into “lessons learned” about its response to the global pandemic.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus promised during the World Health Assembly this month that an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation,” by the agency itself, would take place “at the earliest appropriate moment.”
The move was a partial nod to the calls by over 100 countries for an independent probe of the origins of and response to the pandemic.
With the WHO running the investigation, however, the move will not address the calls for the embattled agency to be probed as part of the inquiry.
China, which had spent weeks rejecting calls for an inquiry into the virus’s origins, came around after the idea of an inquiry focused on “global response” in fighting COVID-19, instead of questioning its source.