WHO launches investigation of its handling of pandemic

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has bowed to calls from most of its member states to launch an independent investigation into its management of the international response to the coronavirus.

The move comes after weeks of finger-pointing between the US and China over the pandemic, which has killed more than 300,000 people and devastated the global economy.

The “comprehensive evaluation,” sought by a coalition of African, European and other countries, is intended to review “lessons learned” from WHO’s coordination of the global response to Covid-19.

But it would stop short of examining contentious issues such as the origins of the new coronavirus.

US President Donald Trump has claimed he has proof suggesting the coronavirus originated in a lab in China, while the scientific community has insisted all evidence to date shows the virus likely jumped into humans from animals.

In Washington on Monday, Mr Trump criticised the WHO for having done “a very sad job” and said he was considering whether to cut the annual US funding of the body from $450 million (£368 million) a year to $40 million (£32.8 million).

“They gave us a lot of bad advice, terrible advice,” he said. “They were wrong so much, always on the side of China.”

Later on Monday, Mr Trump tweeted a letter he had sent WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in which the president said “the only way forward” was if WHO “can actually demonstrate independence from China”.

Mr Trump said unless WHO committed to “substantive improvements over the next 30 days” he would make his temporary suspension of US funding permanent.

WHO’s normally bureaucratic annual assembly this week has been overshadowed by mutual recriminations and political sniping between the US and China.

Mr Trump has repeatedly attacked WHO, claiming it helped China conceal the extent of the coronavirus pandemic in its early stages. Several Republican politicians have called on Dr Tedros to resign.

US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on Monday it was time to be frank about why Covid-19 has “spun out of control”.