WHO's regulatory arm clearly failed during coronavirus: Mike Pompeo

Weeks before the first reported Covid case arrived in Guatemala, USAID helped the Ministry of Health there equip a key hospital to start caring for its first patients
Turning to the World Health Organization (WHO), I want to spend a few minutes telling the American people a little bit more about the problems that we’re trying to work our way through.

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The WHO has two primary functions. First, it’s a regulator and an advisory role, and a health emergency and humanitarian aid operation on top of that.

After the first SARS outbreak in 2003, the United States led the reform of the WHO, the WHO rules that govern how countries report on public health threats. So a major reform effort at 2003.

Those rules — they’re called the International Health Regulations (IHRs) — went into effect in 2007.

We set very clear expectations. We — the world — set very clear expectations for how every country must disclose data to protect global health.
For example, Article 6 of the IHR says that “each State Party shall notify the World Health Organization…within 24 hours…of all events which may constitute a public health emergency of international concern within its territory…”

Annex 2 of those same rules provides that countries must notify the World Health Organization of any unusual or unexpected public health events such as SARS, a close genetic cousin of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Those rules also said how countries should evaluate when to notify the WHO of diseases of unknown causes or sources.

We strongly believe that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) did not report the outbreak of the new coronavirus in a timely fashion to the World Health Organization.

Article 6 of the IHRs, which was a part of this reform, further mandates that a State Party — that would include China — “shall continue to communicate to WHO timely, accurate and sufficiently detailed public health information…” That is, there’s an ongoing obligation.

Even after the CCP did notify the WHO of the coronavirus outbreak, China didn’t share all of the information it had.

Instead, it covered up how dangerous the disease is. It didn’t report sustained human-to-human transmission for a month until it was in every province inside of China. It censored those who tried to warn the world, it ordered a halt to testing of new samples, and it destroyed existing samples.

The CCP still has not shared the virus sample from inside of China with the outside world, making it impossible to track the disease’s evolution.

Not making a legal determination here today on China’s adherence to the IHRs, but the World Health Organization’s regulatory arm clearly failed during this pandemic.

I’d also note that when countries adopted these new rules in 2007, we also gave the director-general of the WHO encouragement and the ability to go public when a member-country wasn’t following those rules, and that didn’t happen in this case either.

It’s why we continue to insist this is an ongoing requirement for transparency and openness according to the WHO rules, and the WHO has responsibility to continue to enforce them today. 
This transparency and getting it right is critical to saving lives today and in the future.

I’ll talk for just a minute about humanitarian aid. The United States is the most generous nation on the planet, has been for the past three years, will continue to be this year.

Thanks to the American taxpayers, we’ve dedicated more than $140 billion in global funding for global health purposes in the past two decades.

Today I can confirm the United States is making an additional commitment of about $270 million to assist the most at-risk countries in fighting the virus, bringing our total to more than $775 million to date.

We do this in lots of ways. We do this through multilateral organisations. We help our partners by sharing expertise.

You should know it helps those countries, it saves lives in those countries, but this is a global pandemic and that work protects us right here at home in America as well.

Weeks before the first reported Covid case arrived in Guatemala, USAID helped the Ministry of Health there equip a key hospital to start caring for its first patients.

And the United States is training more than 70,000 pharmacists across Indonesia today so they can provide good advice and referrals.

American generosity isn’t limited to our assistance that comes directly from the United States Government. Our businesses, our NGOs, charities, all faith groups — this is an all-of-America approach to saving lives all across the world and protecting us right here at home as well.

... America’s global health commitments remain as steady as ever.

Move on to a couple final points. I want to highlight two ways in which the Chinese Communist Party is exploiting the world’s focus on COVID-19 crisis by continuing its provocative behavior.

First, we commented on what’s taking place in Hong Kong, where amidst increased efforts by Beijing to erode autonomy, law enforcement authorities have arrested pro-democracy activists, including 81-year-old Martin Lee. We’ve always said that China has an obligation to live up to its promises, its obligation — as I was speaking about the virus earlier — to live up to the rules that it put in place and it signed off on. We’d ask them to continue to do that here.

You’ve also seen that the Chinese Communist Party is exerting military pressure on Taiwan and coercing its neighbours in the South China Sea, even going so far as to have —so far as to sink a Vietnamese fishing vessel.

The United States strongly opposes China’s bullying; we hope other nations will hold them to account, too. Tonight I’ll be on a phone call cochaired by myself and my Laotian counterpart with every Asean member... Data that come into U.S. facilities will have to follow a Clean Path and reside and transit only through trusted systems.

Edited excerpts from US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo’s opening remarks at a press conference, April 22 in Washington 

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