Report On Covid-19 Origins released, WHO says What?

Report On Covid-19 Origins released, WHO says What?

After rumours of the report being scrapped and demands of a new investigation from scientists globally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released the much awaited joint report on Covid-19 with China. Let’s see what everyone has to say about that.

Crux of the Matter

What Did The Report Say?
It said that the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes Covid-19 most probably jumped from bats to humans via an intermediary animal. Also, it was “extremely unlikely” that the virus had been leaked from a laboratory.

What Does India Say?
External affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi welcomed WHO’s readiness and said, “We share the need for a comprehensive and expert-led mechanism that would expeditiously investigate the origin of Covid-19 in cooperation with all stakeholders“.

What’s More From The WHO Chief?
WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has added that this report requires further investigation, with additional missions involving specialist experts, which he is ready to deploy.

What About China?
Tedros has been long accused to have a soft spot for China. Now he has urged China to be more forthcoming with data from September 2019, months before the first detected COVID-19 case in Wuhan – December 8, 2019.

In response, China called for WHO to probe whether Covid-19 first emerged in other countries, including from a U.S. military lab. China called for WHO to probe whether Covid-19 first emerged in other countries, including from a U.S. military lab.

Global response to report
The US, Japan, Canada, South Korea, Australia, Israel and 8 European countries issued a joint statement voicing concerns that the investigation “was significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples”.

Heard About Zoonotic Diseases?
The illnesses that can spread between animals and people are called zoonoses or zoonotic diseases. Animals are thus capable of hosting microbes harmful to humans. Mostly, the first infected human transmits infectious agent to at least one other human, and the vicious cycle of spreading infection begins.

Why Does This Happen?
Animals who are able to thrive in human-occupied areas are small like rats and mobile like bats. They have the capacity to reproduce quickly in large numbers. This rapid reproduction causes the phenomenon of “quantity over quality” which can come at the expense of an animal’s immune system. This in turn makes them more prone to zoonotic diseases.

  • Through religious scripture, different civilizations as early as 500 years B.C.E had dietary laws that prohibit or allow the consumption of certain animals. Christian and Hebrew religions have reflected these traditions in the Book of Leviticus, while Islamic religions spread the laws throughout the Quran, referring to these rules as Haram and Halal.

India To Lead WHO Executive Board

India has been added to the Executive Board of the World Health Organization. On top of that, in the recent World Health Assembly meeting, India’s Dr. Harsh Vardhan was appointed Executive Board’s chairman.

Crux of the Matter

India’s Inclusion In The Board
In the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) of the World Health Organization, India was elected to the Executive Board (EB) of WHO on 19 May 2020. Besides India, the other new members elected were Botswana, Colombia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Oman, Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United Kingdom. The members are elected on a 3-year basis.

What Is The Executive Board?
WHO’s EB comprises of 34 nations, with each nation providing a “technically qualified” representative to the board. The EB’s primary aim is to implement WHA policies, advise the WHO, and facilitate the working functions. Every year, the EB holds 2 meetings. The first occurs in January, and the second occurs after the WHA.

India At The Helm
Besides the recent inclusion, India also saw the election of its senior minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan as the Chairman of the WHO Executive Board. He would replace Dr. Hiroki Nakatani of Japan. In WHO, the Chairman position rotates annually in the selected regional group. Dr. Harsh Vardhan currently occupies the following offices in India: Ministry of Health and Welfare, Ministry of Sciences, Ministry of Science and Technology.

  • The League of Nations was the first worldwide intergovernmental organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. It was founded on 10 January 1920 following the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War.
  • A potential superpower is a state or a political and economic entity that is speculated to be or to have the potential to soon become a superpower. The Republic of India is considered one of the emerging superpowers of the world. In 2015, India became the world’s fastest-growing economy with a 7.5% estimated GDP rate.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) in April announced that it will work with India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to leverage the strategies that helped the country eradicate polio to fight the pandemic. The Director-General of WHO also praised the strategies used by India to eradicate polio and the steps taken to combat Covid-19.

World Turns Up Heat On China and WHO

In the latest WHO meeting, majority of countries supported an independent inquiry into origin and spread of Coronavirus. Several countries also questioned WHO’s shielding of China’s irresponsibility while continuously praising for its “transparency”.
Complete Coverage: Coronavirus

Crux of the Matter

WHAt Happened?
Recently held the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) meeting centered on the issue of Coronavirus. The online meeting sanctioned an Independent Inquiry of the pandemic probing into the source and transmission of the virus. The inquiry was proposed by Australia and had was backed by 115+ countries including UK, US, Japan, India, Africa Group, etc.

The demand for Taiwan’s inclusion in the WHO was delayed as Taiwan itself postponed the process owing to the pandemic and decided to resume after the situation subsides.

Aussie-Sino Spat
China imposed an 80.5% import duty on Barley from Australia, which proposed the inquiry. Nevertheless, China showed acceptance of the WHO inquiry.

China supports the idea of a comprehensive review of the global response to COVID-19 after it is brought under control, to sum up experiences and deficiencies.

Xi Jinping, President of China

However, the inquiry is set to begin after the pandemic is declared over. China pledged in WHA to provide $2 billion to WHO for fighting Covid-19, particularly in African countries.

Critics have pointed out that China might get the ‘window’ caused by delaying the inquiry, and that the amount might divert attention from its lack of transparency in the fight. China has denied the claims, stating it has provided complete cooperation to WHO in a timely manner.

US, China & WHO in War of Words
US President Trump has accused WHO of shielding China’s lack of transparency in the fight against Coronavirus. Recently, Trump gave a deadline to the WHO to “commit to major substantive improvements” in the next 30 days. On failing to do so, the US would permanently freeze its contribution to WHO and would reconsider its membership in the organization.

China to Blame for Recession in Japan?
Japan is in recession for the first time since 2015. It is in a technical recession, which means a decline of GDP in 2 consecutive quarters. After a 6.4% decline in the last quarter of 2019, Japan reported a decline of 3.4% in this year’s first quarter.

Japan, which also supported the Independent Inquiry, has provided a stimulus of $2.2 billion to companies shifting their production from China. $2 billion of the amount is reserved for companies shifting back to Japan.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) was established on 7th April 1948. And hence with effect from 1950, 7th April is celebrated as World Health Day globally under the sponsorship of WHO.
  • In 2018, Forbes announced Chinese leader Xi Jinping as the “World’s Most Powerful Person”. Since 2009 (with absences in 2017 and 2019), the business magazine has compiled an annual list of the world’s most powerful people. The list has one slot for every 100 million people. Russian President Vladimir Putin topped the list for 4 consecutive years (2013-2016).
  • The Communist Party of China (CPC) is the founding and ruling political party of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the second-largest political party in the world. It was founded in 1921, chiefly by Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao.

Trump Dumps WHO

Donald Trump announced that the US will put on hold the funding to the WHO citing that the supranational health body mismanaged the health crisis. The curb comes after Trump criticized WHO of being China-centric.
Complete Coverage: Coronavirus

Crux of the Matter

Trading Punches
Trump and the World Health Organization (WHO) have been exchanging punches since a while now. Trump accused the WHO of being China-centric and that it praised China even when it was opaque in sharing information. WHO Chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom responded to Trump’s criticism of the organisation by urging nations to not politicize the issue of the pandemic. Trump had also threatened to stop funding the apex health body.

Trump’s Decision
Trump announced that the US has put on hold funding to WHO for 60-90 days citing the mismanagement of the supranational health organisation body. He said that WHO has “failed to do its basic duty and it must be held accountable for mismanagement”. US – the highest contributor to the WHO – contributed $400-$500 million to the body, nearly 15% of WHO’s 2018-19 budget of $6 billion. But the US is also in $200 million arrears. The US has not disclosed the method to stop funding. While theoretically it cannot stop the funding without the consensus of Congress, it seems Trump has found ways around this constitutional hurdle.

Responding to Trump’s move, the United Nations has said that this is not a time to reduce WHO’s or any other organization’s resources while the pandemic is yet to reach its peak. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that this was a time for the international community to show unity and work in solidarity to stop the virus and mitigate its shattering consequences.

Trump’s insistence on withdrawing funding is not anything new. In 2017, he announced the US’ withdrawal from the Paris Accord (Paris climate change agreement) citing that the accord put the US at a permanent disadvantage. Trump also withdrew the USA from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement that outlined trade agreement among 12 nations. With Trump implementing his America First policy, are we witnessing the onset of reversal of globalisation?

  • Other than member nations many Non-Profit Organisations also fund WHO. Some of the largest NPOs are (irrespective of their fund allocations): Novo Nordisk Foundation ($49.1 B), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ($46.8 B), Wellcome Trust ($32.9 B) and many more.
  • Other than WHO, US funds to other international organizations as well. For instance, 22% of the UN’s funding comes from the US. It has also committed $164 billion to IMF.
  • US is the largest fund contributor to the UN. China comes in second by accounting for 12.5% of UN’s funding.
  • Although a special agency of the United Nations, WHO is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, and the UN is headquartered in New York City, USA.

UN Freezes Peacekeeping Missions; Trump-WHO Fight Continues

In view of the pandemic Coronavirus, the United Nations announced that it has halted the rotation and deployment of UN peacekeepers till June 30 to prevent the spread of the virus.
Complete Coverage: Coronavirus

Crux of the Matter

Who are Peacekeepers?
United Nations’ Peacekeepers are troops, military personnel, cops or volunteers deployed to bring lasting peace in nations torn with war and conflict. There are more than 100,000 peacekeepers deployed across the globe. European Union, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan are major contributors to the peacekeepers. Currently, the peacekeepers, popularly known as blue berets, are deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Mali, and South Sudan. They may need to keep operating given the sensitive situation.

UN’s Woes
The United Nations is facing a two-fold challenge with the peacekeepers: looking after the safety of them and worrying about governments calling them back home. One concern of nations can be that if their men/women get infected with Coronavirus, they will not be taken care of properly in the conflict-hit nations, and therefore may urge to bring them back.

We very much hope that the Member States will work with us. I think no one wants to see UN peacekeeping operations being a vector for the spread of COVID-19.

Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman of UN Chief

The United Nations, therefore, announced that it will halt all rotation of troops from and to the conflict zones. UN has also affirmed that it is taking precautionary measures to make sure the soldiers do not get infected, infect other soldiers or locals. The pandemic has not yet attacked Africa with full throttle, but if it does, the UN is a step ahead in regions where peacekeepers are deployed, as per the UN.

When an earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, Nepalese peacekeepers were deployed there for assistance. These peacekeepers infected local people with Cholera that turned into an epidemic that took at least 10,000 lives.

Vexed Tedros
The World Health Organization (WHO) is a subsidiary of UN. In a press briefing, Donald Trump said that WHO seemed to be very China-centric. He cited that his preemptive measure of travel ban to China was also disapproved by WHO. WHO chief Tedros has been applauding measures taken by China when many nations across the world are unhappy with it for opaqueness in information sharing. Trump also threatened to block the US’ funding of the WHO. The US is the largest contributor to the funds received by WHO.

Please don’t politicise this virus. If you don’t want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicising it.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Chief

In response, WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom, who is also the first non-medical chief of the WHO, said that political parties should not politicise the issue and that China and US should come together to fight the dangerous enemy. WHO is getting some heat for delays in declaring this outbreak pandemic. Tedros said he is facing death threats, racial slurs, and personal attacks due to the pandemic. Last week two scientists suggested that Africa could be a good testing ground for COVID-19 vaccine, and in response to that Dr. Tedros said that he would not tolerate when the whole black community is insulted.

  • Peacekeeping by the United Nations is a unique and dynamic instrument developed by the organization as a way to help countries torn by conflict to create the conditions for lasting peace.
  • At the time when US threats to stop funding to WHO, American billionaire Jack Dorsey has pledged $1 billion (around 28% of his wealth) to fight coronavirus, which is highest by any individual.
  • On January 14th, a tweet by WHO backed a Chinese report stating that there were no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of Coronavirus.