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Fierce exchange between U.S., China during World Health Assembly over COVID-19; UN chief calls for unity Updated: 2020-05-19 10:03:02 KST

With the 73rd World Health Assembly taking place virtually for the first time in its history on Monday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres slammed some countries for brushing off the WHO's advice during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
He insisted the pandemic should serve as a "wake-up call" to a world which needs to be more united in its response.

"COVID-19 must be a wakeup call. It is time for an end to this hubris. Our deep feelings of powerlessness must lead to greater humility. Deadly global threats require a new unity and solidarity."

The UN chief also reiterated the need to support the WHO, which he described as "irreplaceable".

"The WHO is irreplaceable. It needs enhanced resources, particularly to provide support to developing countries, which must be our greatest concern. We are as strong as the weakest health systems."

Despite the call for unity, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar slammed China for its lack of transparency in regards to the outbreak, stressing that Beijing's actions cost the lives of many people around the world.
The criticism was made indirectly, but it was clear which country Azar was referencing.

"In an apparent attempt to conceal this outbreak, at least one member state made a mockery of their transparency obligations with tremendous costs for the entire world."

He also heaped blame on the WHO for the agency's lack of information sharing and transparency, calling it "intolerable".
Azar demanded changes be made at the WHO, accusing it of failing to obtain the information the world needed as the outbreak started to filter out.
Despite the verbal attack on China and the WHO, Chinese President Xi Jinping defended Beijing's handling of the pandemic.

"All along, China has acted with openness, transparency, and responsibility. We have provided the information to WHO and relevant countries in a most timely fashion. We have done everything in our power to support and assist countries in need."

President Xi said China will provide two billion U.S. dollars of international assistance within two years to help with the COVID-19 response.
In addition, he vowed that vaccine "development and deployment" in China, when complete, will be made available for the public good both inside and outside China.
He added that any COVID-19 vaccine developed by China would be accessible and affordable for developing nations.
Lee Seung-jae, Arirang News.
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