WHO and Global Pandemics

A post created by Morgan Galea, Junior Associate.

The recent presence of the coronavirus struck the world with terror for yet another quickly spreading virus with lethal strength.  The stock market declined,[1] and the United States urgently scheduled civilian flights for Americans to travel home safely.[2] Yet, there was negative feedback on the WHO’s response to the recently imminent Coronavirus.[3]

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) goal is to attain the “highest possible level of health” for all people.[4]While the coronavirus is not an influenza, it has similar characteristics, such as its capacity to spread.[5]   This virus is known to be a pandemic because it is a “worldwide spread of a new disease.”[6]  According to the WHO, the Coronavirus is in the “alert phase” of a pandemic,[7] but it ended up sending more than 60 million people into quarantine,[8] which allegedly put the World Health Organization into a “difficult position.”[9] Considering “[a] pandemic will affect the whole of society,”[10] Chinese officials along[11] with the country’s risk management was largely criticized.[12]

Originally, the doctor that highlighted the Coronavirus was being investigated for informing people of its existence through a popular web platform, “WeChat.[13]” The Chinese government looked into this doctor, who lost his life to the virus himself, because such a message to the public was “illegal behavior.[14]” Considering his warning on a deadly virus, one would think such “whistleblowing” would be applauded.

[1] Karen Langley, Dow Drops Over 450 Points on Coronavirus Fears, Wall Street J. (Jan. 27, 2020 9:44 PM) https://www.wsj.com/articles/global-stocks-slide-on-coronavirus-fears-11580119666; see also James T. Areddy China’s Stimulus Strategy Faces New Test in Coronavirus, Wall Street J. (Feb. 13, 2020, 12:58 PM) https://www.wsj.com/articles/chinas-stimulus-strategy-faces-new-test-in-coronavirus-11581616693.

[2]  Charter flights carrying US citizens land at Travis Air Force Base, CNN (Feb. 5, 2020, 7:39 AM) https://www.cnn.com/asia/live-news/coronavirus-outbreak-02-05-20-intl-hnk/h_3c1a507ca759428a9905860f641904ea.

[3] Jeremy Page & Betsy McKay, The World Health Organization Draws Flak for Coronavirus Response, Wall Street J., (Feb. 12, 2020 11:33 AM) https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-world-health-organization-draws-flak-for-coronavirus-response-11581525207?tesla=y&mod=article_inline.

[4] Const. of the WHO Art. 1.

[5] See Helen Branswell, Understanding pandemics: What they mean, don’t mean, and what comes next with the coronavirus, STAT(Feb. 12, 2020) https://www.statnews.com/2020/02/12/understanding-pandemics-what-they-mean-coronavirus/ (stating, “though this coronavirus isn’t related to influenza, it is acting a lot like a new flu virus.”).

[6] Id.

[7] Current WHO global phase of pandemic alert: Avian Influenza A(H5N1), WHO https://www.who.int/influenza/preparedness/pandemic/h5n1phase/en/.

[8] Page & McKay, supra note 3.

[9] Id.

[10] WHO Pandemic Influenza Risk Management ¶ 3.1.2 (May 2019).

[11] Coronavirus: Senior Chinese officials ‘removed’ as death toll hits 1,000, BBC News (Feb. 11, 2020) https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-51453848.

[12] Laurie Garrett, How China’s Incompetence Endangered the World, Foreign Policy (Feb. 15, 2020 4:48 PM) https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/02/15/coronavirus-xi-jinping-chinas-incompetence-endangered-the-world/.

[13] Scott Neuman, Emily Feng & Huo Jingnan, China To Investigate After Whistleblower Doctor Dies From Coronavirus, NPR (Feb. 7, 2020, 6:06 AM) https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/02/07/803680463/china-to-investigate-after-whistleblower-doctor-dies-from-coronavirus.

[14] Id.

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