WHO claims its ‘highest level of alarm’ for COVID in January 2020 fell on deaf ears

March 09, 2021 | Updated 3:06 pm

WHO claims its ‘highest level of alarm’ for COVID in January 2020 fell on deaf ears Credits: Xinhua

GENEVA, March 8 (Xinhua) — Almost one year since the coronavirus outbreak was declared a global “pandemic”, the World Health Organisation (WHO) clarified on Monday that it did use the “highest level of alarm” to urge actions from all countries in early 2020.

Being asked on Monday’s press conference whether the organisation should have used the word “pandemic” sooner, Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, said that the WHO announced a Public Health Emergency of International Concern as early as on January 30 last year.

She said that the announcement was indeed the highest level of alarm, or “the highest level that we can under international law.”

On January 30, 2020, the WHO declared the outbreak, later named as COVID-19, as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, following a two-day discussion by a team of international experts.

Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, said at Monday’s press conference that this level of action was the “highest possible” under common agreement between WHO member states.

He added that there is a solemn legal agreement between 194 WHO members, agreed in 2005, where they came together and agreed with each other what would represent the highest level of alert for global public health emergencies.

“That is an agreement between all member states on this planet, who agreed in law, that this would represent the trigger to collective action in response for containment,” he said.

“Maybe we need to shout louder,” said Ryan, “But maybe some people need hearing aids.”