Photo taken on Jan. 22, 2020 shows an exterior view of the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland. The WHO on Wednesday night extended to Thursday its emergency talks on whether the novel coronavirus outbreak in China constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). (Xinhua/Liu Qu)

The World Health Organization (WHO) chief announced on Thursday to launch an independent panel to review the WHO-coordinated international response to COVID-19.

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPR) will be co-chaired by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who will choose their members, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in his virtual address to WHO member states on Thursday.

The panel is supposed to present its interim report in November when the World Health Assembly (WHA) resumes, and its substantive report in May next year.

“This is not a standard report that ticks a box and is then put on a shelf to gather dust. This is something we take seriously,” Tedros said. Through the panel, “the world will understand the truth of what happened and also the solutions to build our future better as one humanity.”

WHO said IPPR is set up in accordance with a WHA resolution in May to review experience gained and lessons learned from the WHO-coordinated international health response to COVID-19. That involves the global response, including but not limited to WHO.

In his emotional speech, Tedros said “this is a time for self-reflection,” and the panel will “help us understand what happened — an honest assessment — and to help us understand also what we should do to prevent such a tragedy in the future.”

Tedros vowed to put WHO “forward like an open book, so you can have full access, so you can see what was done,” while also “calling on all member states to open up and show them everything as an open book, so we understand honestly and truthfully.”

The WHO chief proposed that all member states offer suggestions for candidates to be members of the panel, and that one mission briefing be held per month for updates on the implementation of the resolution and for consultation.

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