One Year After, WHO Says Early COVID-19 Warning Fell On Some Deaf Ears

This picture taken on April 24, 2020 shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva next to their headquarters, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Nearly a year after first describing Covid-19 as a pandemic, the World Health Organization complained Monday that some failed to listen to its earlier urgent warnings.

The WHO sounded its highest available level of alarm on January 30, 2020 by declaring a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

But it was not until it used the word “pandemic” — which does not feature in the official international health alert system — on March 11 that many countries jumped into action.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said some countries were slow to wake up to the risks of the novel coronavirus after the PHEIC declaration, when, outside China, there were fewer than 100 cases of Covid-19 and no deaths.


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