Pandemic review panel named, includes Miliband, ex Mexican president

FILE PHOTO: International Rescue Committee CEO David Miliband testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a hearing titled "The Humanitarian Impact of Eight Years of War in Syria" in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 1, 2019. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne/File Photo

GENEVA (Reuters) - Members of an independent panel examining how the World Health Organization and countries handled the COVID-19 pandemic were named on Thursday, including former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo and Britain’s former foreign secretary David Miliband.

Co-chairs of the panel, former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, issued the list of the other 11 members.

“We intend to learn all that we can about (the pandemic’s) early emergence, global spread, health, economic and social impacts, and how it has been controlled and mitigated,” Clark said in a statement.

Other members include former Colombian finance minister Mauricio Cardenas, Chinese professor Zhong Nanshan, a former president of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) Joanne Liu of Canada, as well as Mark Dybul and Michel Kazatchkine, who each formerly headed the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

The panel is to meet about every six weeks starting this month through to April and will make a presentation to the WHO’s executive board in October, it said.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus said when announcing the launch of the panel in July that it would provide an interim report to an annual meeting of health ministers resuming in November and present a “substantive report” next May.

Tedros said that the review was in line with a resolution adopted by its 194 member countries last May calling for an evaluation of the global response. The pandemic has now caused more than 26.11 million infections and 862,963 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has strongly criticised the WHO’s role in the crisis, accusing it of being too close to China and not doing enough to question Beijing’s actions late last year when the virus first emerged. Tedros has dismissed the suggestions and said his agency kept the world informed.

The United States said on Wednesday that it will not pay some $80 million it currently owes to the WHO and will instead redirect the money to help pay its United Nations bill in New York.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Kate Kelland in London