WHO chief looks forward to working 'very closely' with Biden team

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged the international community to recapture a sense of common purpose. PHOTO: REUTERS

GENEVA (REUTERS) - The World Health Organisation chief welcomed efforts on Monday (Nov 9) to strengthen the Geneva-based body through reform and said that it was looking forward to working closely with the administration of US President-elect Joe Biden.

WHO's funding must become more flexible and predictable to end a "major misalignment" between expectations and available resources, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, citing reform efforts by France, Germany and the European Union.

"We still have a lot of work left to do, but we believe that we're on the right track," Dr Tedros told health ministers as the annual meeting resumed of the WHO, which groups 194 countries.

US President Donald Trump has frozen US funding to the WHO and begun a process that would see the United States withdraw from the body next July, drawing wide international criticism amid the Covid-19 crisis.

He accuses the WHO of being "China-centric" in its handling of the pandemic, which Dr Tedros has repeatedly denied.

Mr Biden, who will convene a national coronavirus task force on Monday, said during campaigning he would rescind Mr Trump's decision to abandon the WHO on his first day in office.

Dr Tedros urged the international community to recapture a sense of common purpose, adding: "In that spirit, we congratulate President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris and we look forward to working with this administration very closely.

"We need to reimagine leadership, build on mutual trust and mutual accountability to end the pandemic and address the fundamental inequalities that lie at the root of so many of the world's problems," he said.

An oversight panel called last week for reforms at the WHO, including "predictable and flexible" funding and setting up a multi-tiered system to warn countries earlier about disease outbreaks before they escalate.

Dr Tedros, speaking from quarantine after being in contact with an individual with Covid-19 more than a week ago, began with a minute's silence, noting that Covid-19 cases approached 50 million with 1.2 million deaths.

Speaking shortly before Pfizer said its experimental Covid-19 vaccine was more than 90 per cent effective, Dr Tedros said vaccines being developed to curb the pandemic should be allocated fairly as "global public goods, not private commodities".

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.