Early last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted its 146th session of the Executive Board at its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
The six-day event had representatives from different countries around the world come together to discuss a variety of crucial health issues such as antimicrobial resistance, large-scale emergencies, and research and development for diseases with epidemic potential, including COVID-19.
While speaking in the meeting, Thailand’s representative Dr Suwit Wilbulpolprasert said that WHO’s advice against travel restrictions to China due to COVID-19 has been violated and questioned the organisation’s “double or even triple” standard in implementing such travel restrictions.
“Chair(person), WHO advice against travel restrictions on novel coronavirus in China has been violated. It’s in contrast to H1N1 2009 pandemic emerged from other part of the world and spread out much faster and killed more,” said Dr Wilbulpolprasert.
He added, “We are definitely double or even triple standard. Chair(person), if implements travel restrictions and have to quarantine, we have to quarantine the DG (Director-General) who just came back from China and cancel this EB (Executive Board meeting)”.
On 30 January this year, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the novel coronavirus outbreak as a “public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC)”, following the advice of the Emergency Committee convened under the International Health Regulations.
This then resulted in many countries imposing travel restrictions against China.
Elaborating further, Dr Wilbulpolprasert also jokingly said that many attendees of the meeting – including those from countries that implemented travel restrictions – have shook hands and even hugged Dr Tedros.
“They are all vulnerable, except me. Dr Tedros declined to hug or shake hands with me in the last 3 or 4 days. Particularly you Chair(person), who sits next to him all the time would be the most vulnerable,” Dr Wilbulpolprasert said to a laughing crowd.
As such, the Thai representative stated that “global confidence solidarity” must be brought back and stop the panic among people immediately.
He facetiously suggested that a global meeting of WHO staff and experts must be immediately held in China, Wuhan specifically.
“We can all appreciate the most charming Yellow Crane Tower, built almost 2,000 years ago, with very few tourists. If conveys in Beijing, it would be the best time to visit the Great Walls and the Forbidden City without too many tourists and at low costs,” he remarked to a giggling audience once again.
He even added that he will be happy to “pay half of my annual pension to support this meeting” and join it with his own expense.