US says WHO 'failure' on COVID-19 'cost many lives'
The United States on Monday slammed the World Health Organization's "failure" to obtain and provide vital information on COVID-19 that could have reined in the pandemic and saved many lives.
"We must be frank about one of the primary reasons this outbreak spun out of control: there was a failure by this organisation to obtain the information that the world needed, and that failure cost many lives," US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said in a video address to the WHO's main annual meeting.
Azar insisted the WHO had to change and become more transparent, as he backed an independent review of "every aspect" of the UN health agency's response to the pandemic.
Washington is locked in an increasingly bitter spat with Beijing over the new coronavirus pandemic, while it has also taken aim at the WHO.
The outbreak, which emerged in China late last year, has killed and infected more people in the United States than in any other country by far.
Washington has suspended its funding to the WHO, accusing it of being too close to Beijing, and covering up and mismanaging the pandemic.
"In an apparent attempt to conceal this outbreak, at least one member state made a mockery of their transparency obligations, with tremendous costs for the entire world," said Azar.
"We saw that the WHO failed at its core mission of information sharing and transparency when member states do not act in good faith.
"This cannot ever happen again. The status quo is intolerable. WHO must change, and it must become far more transparent and far more accountable."
Azar said that while countries were focused on the immediate response to the pandemic, they needed a "more effective WHO right now" to help win the fight.