Battle of curiosity? WHO ‘conspired’ with Italian govt to take away ‘stay saving’ report into Covid-19 first response, media declare


A World Well being Group report on Italy’s first response to a Covid-19 outbreak, that would have saved lives throughout the globe, has been taken down by the UN well being watchdog, supposedly to appease Rome, media report.

A key WHO report within the spring detailing anti-Covid measures within the then worst-hit European nation – Italy – has been supposedly taken all the way down to protect the Italian well being ministry from criticism for the reason that paper forged a few of its actions in a destructive gentle, a contemporary report by The Guardian suggests.

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Referred to as “An Unprecedented Problem: Italy’s First Response to Covid-19,” the report printed in mid-Might notes that Italy’s pandemic response technique had not been considerably up to date since 2006. As a substitute, the technique papers have been merely “reconfirmed” as much as a minimum of 2017, despite the fact that the WHO and the European Centre for Illness Prevention and Management (ECDC) had issued new tips that 12 months.

Italy did concern one other “framework” doc known as Nationwide Prevention Plan, the WHO paper notes. Nonetheless, planning “remained extra theoretical than sensible” and the shortage of the much-needed readiness translated into Italy’s precise Covid-19 response being “improvised, chaotic and artistic.”

‘Nice service’ to Italy?

The prolonged report that documented Italy’s Covid-19 response measures in nice element was, nonetheless, pulled down by the WHO itself lower than a day after publication. It’s nonetheless out there on another assets, like an internet site of considered one of Italy’s regional medical associations however it apparently didn’t get widespread circulation following the WHO’s sudden change of coronary heart.

Based on The Guardian, that may have had one thing to do with Dr Ranieri Guerra, the WHO’s Assistant Director-Common for Strategic Initiatives. 

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Earlier than taking over a high-ranking submit with the UN well being watchdog, Guerra served because the Director Common for Preventive Well being of the Italian Ministry of Well being and the nation’s Chief Medical Officer. On this capability, he was significantly liable for updating the ill-fated pandemic response plans. The person continues to be a part of the Italian authorities Covid-19 activity power.

Some emails seen by The Guardian and Italy’s Rai TV broadcaster recommend Guerra might need had a stake in making the report disappear. As allegedly did Hans Kluge, the WHO’s Europe director, who even wrote an introduction to the paper. 

In one of many emails dated Might 13 (the day the report was printed), Guerra instructed the report’s lead writer, Francesco Zambon, that criticizing the Italian well being ministry would hardly be “an important service to the nation.” One other e mail to Zambon by Kluge says the Italian heath minister was “very disillusioned” with the paper whereas hinting at a sure “relationship” between the minister and the WHO Europe director.

The UN well being watchdog had beforehand instructed numerous media that the report was pulled down attributable to “factual errors” in addition to “inaccuracies and inconsistencies”. It additionally stated in an announcement that it will definitely opted for one more mechanism to assist nations throughout the globe to evaluate their Covid-9 responses and observe “finest practices,” whereas deciding to not “re-publish” the report.

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Zambon, nonetheless, challenged this narrative. “By no means in 9 months was I instructed that the report … has inaccuracies and inconsistencies,” he instructed Monetary Occasions in early December, including that the paper went by “a number of tiers of approvals” on the WHO. 

He additionally stated the content material of the paper was sound – significantly in relation to Italy’s planning. “The staff completely checked this and located that every one the plans that got here after 2006 have been simply copied and pasted – not a phrase or comma was modified within the textual content,” he instructed The Guardian on Friday.

Above nationwide stage?

The function the outdated governmental protocols performed in Italy’s spring epidemic catastrophe is now being investigated by Bergamo prosecutors as a part of a probe into the Covid-19 disaster. If the probe concludes this failure contributed to the catastrophe, many Italian former and present high well being officers and even prime ministers might probably face trials.

The WHO in some way gave the impression to be conspicuously uncooperative when it got here to the Bergamo prosecutors’ probe. Guerra, who seems to be the one one with the data in regards to the ill-fated report, was questioned by the prosecutors in a closed session.

When it got here to the staff behind the report, nonetheless, the WHO said such questionings would run exactly counter to its impartiality and independence ideas.

Zambon particularly was summoned 3 times however was prevented from collaborating by the WHO, which maintains he ought to “take pleasure in” immunity. “After I obtained the primary summons, I reported it to the WHO’s authorized workplace and shortly after they responded saying I couldn’t go as I used to be protected by immunity, although I wished to go as I had one thing to say,” the WHO coordinator for the European Workplace for Funding for Well being and Improvement instructed The Guardian.

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The WHO stated in its assertion to The Guardian that its employees are “worldwide civil servants” who ought to carry out their duties “impartially and with out worry of retribution.”

“To protect its objectivity and independence, WHO doesn’t usually turn out to be concerned in authorized issues on the nationwide stage,” the assertion stated. Beforehand, the UN well being watchdog additionally instructed the Italian international ministry that “Zambon and different aforementioned WHO consultants have been requested to not current themselves at these hearings.”

Zambon, nonetheless, believes, it’s all a results of the shortage of impartiality that may even stand in the best way of the WHO fulfilling its duties. The report’s publication “had life-saving potential,” he stated. But, “a private battle of curiosity was thought of extra essential than sharing classes discovered from the hardest-hit nation at that second,” he added.

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