On January 30, the UN agency announced that the virus had constituted a “Public Health Emergency Of International Concern.”
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a WHO briefing on Monday that the multinational body’s advice was flouted by countries that have now seen high levels on infection.
He said: “We can only give advice to countries.
“We don’t have any mandate to force countries to implement what we advise them.
“The world should have listened to the WHO carefully.
The director added that the measures countries are now implementing, such as contact tracing, could have been used earlier to help fight the virus.
He said: “We advised the whole world to implement a comprehensive public health approach – find, test, contact tracing and so on.
“The countries who followed that are in a better position than others.”
The WHO did also recommend that countries keep their borders and trade open.
The WHO has been under fire from many countries for their slow response and controversial rulings amid the pandemic.
On January 14, just two weeks before announcing the designation, the WHO wrote in a controversial tweet that China had found no evidence of the virus spreading from person to person, based on information from Chinese health officials.
The WHO wrote: “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in Wuhan, China.”
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Criticism also came after the WHO praised China for its transparency over the virus, which has now became strongly debated by world leaders.
Dr Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, said in late January: “China is doing the right things, and China is responding in a massive way.
“We’ve seen no obvious lack of transparency.
“Before we start pointing the finger at China, we need to recognise there are genuine sensitivities around sharing data around new diseases, and I believe, in this case, the countries that have been affected, including China, have been remarkably transparent in this regard.”
Coronavirus was first announced by the WHO on January 7, and praised china for their quick reporting of the virus two days later.
Earlier this month, Washington accused the WHO of initially downplaying the coronavirus crisis, which has infected around 1,007,514 people in the US.
US President Donald Trump launched an unprecedented attack on the agency, putting $500million in funding on hold while an investigation is conducted into its handling of the pandemic.
Worldwide coronavirus cases have now reached 3,058,552 as of Monday evening.
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