The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday that it was setting up an independent panel to review its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the response by governments.
The announcement follows strong criticism by US President Donald Trump's administration, which accused the WHO of being "China-centric", and US formal notification on Tuesday that it was withdrawing from the UN agency in a year's time.
Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf have agreed to head the panel and chose its members, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual meeting with representatives of WHO's 194 member states, which was webcast.
"This is not a standard report that ticks a box and is then put on a shelf to gather dust. This is something we take seriously," Tedros said, adding that the panel would provide an interim report to an annual meeting of health ministers being reconvened in November.
Clark, addressing the meeting, said that the assignment "could only be described as exceptionally challenging".
Tedros noted that in May, WHO's member states adopted unanimously a resolution put forward by the European Union calling for an evaluation of the global response to the pandemic.
More than 12 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 548,429 have died, according to a Reuters tally.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, John Miller, and Brenna Hughes-Neghaiwi; Editing by Michael Shields)
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