Published: 09:48, July 24, 2020 | Updated: 21:44, June 5, 2023
WHO chief says questioning of his independence 'unacceptable'
By Reuters

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference organised by the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, on July 3, 2020 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. (Fabrice COFFRINI / POOL / AFP)

GENEVA - The head of the World Health Organization said on Thursday that reported comments by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo questioning his independence were untrue and would not distract the organisation from its work in fighting the coronavirus.

Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has come under criticism, especially from US President Donald Trump and Pompeo, who have accused him of being pro-China.

Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has come under criticism, especially from US President Donald Trump and Pompeo

“And the comments are untrue and unacceptable and without any foundation, for that matter,” Tedros said in response to a question at a Geneva briefing about remarks by Pompeo reported in London on Tuesday.

“Our sole focus - and the focus of the entire organisation - is on saving lives.

“...And WHO will not be distracted by these comments. We don’t want the international community also to be distracted.”

The WHO is beginning to reach out to experts at the international level for a mission to identify the zoonotic source of COVID-19, Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergencies expert, said.

READ MORE: WHO: Over 10,000 African health workers have COVID-19

The animal source of the virus is a very important question, and experts in both Chinese and international scientific communities are "anxious to move forward with the appropriate studies," said Ryan. He believes that the experts' high level of engagement will "drive a successful mission."

 An advance team comprised of two WHO experts was sent to China to prepare for the international mission two weeks ago.

Tedros said the WHO was seeing intense transmission of the coronavirus in relatively few countries.

“Two-thirds of all cases are from 10 countries. Almost half of all cases reported so far are from just three countries,” he said, referring to the United States, Brazil and India.

Worldwide more than 15 million cases have been reported and nearly 620,000 deaths, he said.

Recorded US coronavirus infections exceeded 4 million on Thursday, with more than 2,600 new ones every hour on average, the highest rate in the world, according to a Reuters tally.

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Infections in the United States have rapidly accelerated since the first COVID-19 case was detected on Jan. 21. It took the country 98 days to reach 1 million cases. It took another 43 days to reach 2 million and then 27 days to reach 3 million.

It has only taken 16 days to reach 4 million at a rate of 43 new cases a minute.

Tedros said that just because cases may be at a low level where someone lives, it doesn’t mean they should let down their guard.

“Know your situation - do you know how many cases were reported where you live yesterday? Do you know how to find that information? Do you know how to minimize your exposure?”

With Xinhua inputs