Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

  • Throughout January, the World Health Organization publicly praised China for what it called a speedy response to the new coronavirus and thanked the Chinese government for sharing the genetic map of the virus “immediately.”
  • However, it is said that Chinese officials sat on releasing the genetic map, or genome, of the deadly virus for over a week after multiple government labs had fully decoded it, not sharing details key to designing tests, drugs and vaccines.

WHO and China’s narratives

  • Although WHO continued to publicly commend China, the recordings obtained by the AP show they were concerned China was not sharing enough information to assess the risk posed by the new virus, costing the world valuable time.
  • Strict controls on information and competition within the Chinese public health system were largely to blame, has found from internal documents, emails and dozens of interviews.
  • WHO officials worried about how to press China for more information without angering authorities or jeopardizing Chinese scientists, whom they praised for decoding the genome with astonishing speed.
  • China’s top medical authority, the National Health Commission, issued a confidential notice forbidding labs from publishing about the virus without authorization.
  • The order barred Shi’s lab from publishing the sequence or warning of the possible danger.
  • Although international law obliges countries to report information to WHO that could have an impact on public health, the U.N. agency has no enforcement powers.

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-Source: The Hindu

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