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WHO Director Fights to Prevent a Pandemic Without Offending China

Image: Collage of colorized scanning electron micrograph of MERS coronavirus virus particles (via NIAID) overlap map of the world.

If Tedros wants WHO to stay informed about what’s happening in China and influence how the country handles the epidemic, he cannot afford to antagonize the notoriously touchy Chinese government—even though it is clear the country has been less than fully transparent about the outbreak’s early stages, and perhaps still is. Critics say that stance puts WHO’s moral authority at risk. “WHO has never faced such a fast-moving epidemic in a country that is quite that powerful and, in many ways, closed,” says Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University.

And the epidemic comes on top of other challenges inside and outside WHO. Its budget hasn’t kept up with its tasks; misinformation about vaccines is spreading like wildfire; and leading politicians remain in denial about climate change, which could have profound effects on public health. Meanwhile, multilateral organizations like WHO are under fire from populists and nationalists. “All the global trends are against what WHO was founded for,” Gostin says. “The organization in the year 2020 is in the middle of a hurricane, hunkering down.”

Read the full story by Kai Kupferschmidt at Science

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