Amid attack from Trump, WHO praises China for handling coronavirus pandemic

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The World Health Organisation has praised China for handling the coronavirus pandemic and said that the countries need to learn from Wuhan on how the epicentre of the virus was bringing the society back to normal, a day after US President Donald Trump likened the global health body to a public relations agency for Beijing.

Trump on Thursday said the WHO should be “ashamed” of itself, as he compared the UN’s health organ to a public relations agency for China amidst the coronavirus pandemic after it originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

The Trump administration has launched a probe into the role of the WHO on coronavirus, and has temporarily suspended the US’ financial assistance to it.

Many countries, including Germany, Britain and Australia, are blaming China for the spread of coronavirus, that has killed over 2,35,000 people globally, including 64,000 Americans, and has infected 3.3 million.

Noting that there are zero COVID-19 cases in Wuhan, Maria van Kerkhove, the technical lead for the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme at a virtual press briefing in Geneva, said, “that’s very very welcome news to hear that there are no more severe cases, no more patients in Wuhan.”

“So congratulations on this achievement,” state-run Xinhua news agency quoted her as saying on Saturday.

“The world has learned from China and we need to continue to learn from Wuhan on how they are lifting those measures, how they are bringing society back to normal, or a new normal, in terms of how we’re going to live with this virus going forward,” she said.

Health officials in Wuhan, where the coronavirus emerged in December last year, said all COVID-19 cases were cleared from hospitals on Sunday.

The Hubei province and its capital Wuhan have not reported coronavirus cases for 28 consecutive days since April 4, the local health commission said on Saturday.

The central province also lowered its emergency level from highest to next level on Saturday.

The lowering of the emergency level shows a major breakthrough in Hubei’s prevention and control against COVID-19, Vice-Governor of Hubei Yang Yunyan told the media on Friday.

The province, however, reported 647 asymptomatic cases, which are under medical observation. Hubei has so far reported 68,128 confirmed COVID-19 cases in total, including 50,333 in Wuhan.

Amid criticism of under reporting of cases, Wuhan on April 17 revised its death toll by 50 per cent, taking the number of fatalities to 3,869.

The death toll in China stood at 4,633 as of Thursday, with 82,874 overall confirmed cases.

As one of the China-WHO joint experts, who visited China in February for a field study, van Kerkhove said, “China has worked very hard to bring the outbreak under control.”

“I was there for two weeks and working directly with ministry officials, and officials from all different sectors, from hospitals, through communities, to really see what was put in place to bring those numbers down,” she said.

Van Kerkhove said she appreciated the “tireless efforts” of the people in Wuhan — “not just the healthcare workers but the individuals who stayed in their homes, who adhered to the public health measures.”

“We take our hats off to you, and we thank you for your commitment and your service, and for sharing with us in the world what you’ve been able to do,” she said.

She also asked people in Wuhan to “remain vigilant,” in case new cases appear.