- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 3, 2020

An independent panel appointed to review the World Health Organization’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic named its members Thursday and said it will have free rein to examine the body’s files and ask “hard questions” about the response.

WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus appointed former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark as co-chairs of the panel in May.

The co-chairs named 11 additional members Thursday ahead of a kickoff meeting on Sept. 17. The panel will meet every six weeks through April, issuing an interim report in November and a complete one in the spring.

“We look forward to intense work together at a key moment in history,” Ms. Sirleaf said. “In order to honor the more than 25.6 million people who have fallen ill, and more than 850,000 who have died due to COVID-19, we have no time to waste.”

At a news conference Thursday, she added: “This is a strong panel, poised to ask the hard questions.”

Ms. Clark said the WHO is committed to transparency during the probe.

“Anything we want to see, we see,” she said.

President Trump is a leading critic of the WHO’s performance in the days and weeks after the coronavirus was discovered in Wuhan, China, in December.

He says the public health arm of the UN was too deferential to China in January and then too slow to sound global alarm over the extent of the problem.

Mr. Trump is pulling the U.S. out of the WHO completely. Critics say it is a foolish move in the middle of a pandemic and that he is trying to redirect blame for the extent of the crisis in the U.S., where over 185,000 have died from COVID-19.

Members of the new oversight panel include former British foreign secretary David Miliband, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo and Joanne Liu, a Canadian who criticized the global response to the 2014-2016 Ebola crisis when she led Doctors Without Borders.

The panel also includes Zhong Nanshan, a Chinese professor of pulmonology who raised concerns about the transmissibility of the coronavirus after its discovery in Wuhan.

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