WHO pulled report on Italy’s ‘chaotic’ first response to Covid-19

Italy’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic was “improvised” and “chaotic” based on a World Health Organisation report that was taken down from the physique’s web site simply hours after publication in May.

The evaluation titled “An unprecedented challenge, Italy’s first response to Covid-19” was accomplished by a bunch of pan-European WHO scientists led by Venice-based Francesco Zambon.

It was revealed on the WHO’s web site on May 13, together with an introduction written by Europe’s WHO director, Hans Kluge, however was eliminated the subsequent day. The WHO issued no public assertion on the time to point that it had withdrawn the report or clarify why.

According to the 102-page doc, seen by the Financial Times, Italy’s decentralised strategy to public well being coverage, in addition to delays in testing and tracing potential Covid-19 infections, contributed to worsening the end result of the primary part of the pandemic.

“Unprepared for such a flood of severely ill patients, the initial reaction of the hospitals was improvised, chaotic and creative,” the report mentioned.

In a written response to the FT, the WHO mentioned the doc was eliminated by the WHO’s European Office as a result of it contained “factual errors in some of the data and statistics” however declined to offer particular particulars.

“While it was offline, a decision was taken to instead use a new mechanism created in the early months of the pandemic aimed at helping member states conduct intra-action reviews and assess their Covid-19 responses,” the WHO mentioned. “The document was, therefore, not republished.”

Mr Zambon, the lead creator of the report, challenged the WHO’s assertion that errors within the evaluation meant it needed to be withdrawn. “Never in nine months was I told that the report . . . has inaccuracies and inconsistencies,” he mentioned in a written assertion to the FT. “Before publishing even a short piece for the internet there are several tiers of approvals [at WHO] and rounds of comments to grant technical soundness and corporate consistency.”

Italy was the primary nation exterior China to be hit by the pandemic, with the loss of life toll topping 35,000 through the first wave of the outbreak. The report, financed by a grant from Kuwait, was supposed to offer steering to nations that had not been affected on the time.

According to a few WHO officers, who requested to not be recognized, the report was formally authorised by the establishment earlier than publication, at a gathering in Geneva on May 11 chaired by Sylvie Briand, the WHO’s director of worldwide infectious hazard preparedness. Ms Briand didn’t reply to a request to remark made through the WHO.

The doc, the existence of which was first reported by the Italian tv programme Rai Report, additionally says that the Italian authorities’s pandemic response plan had solely been “reconfirmed” in 2016. Italian authorities officers had beforehand mentioned the plan had been totally up to date that yr.

Ranieri Guerra, who because the Italian well being ministry’s chief medical officer from 2014 to 2017 was accountable for the plan, is now one in every of 14 WHO assistant-director generals. He can be at the moment a member of the Italian authorities’s scientific activity power on Covid-19. Mr Guerra declined to remark for this text, referring all inquiries to the WHO.

Prosecutors in Bergamo, the epicentre of Italy’s Covid-19 outbreak through the first wave, are already investigating whether or not errors on each an area and nationwide degree contributed to the catastrophic affect of the pandemic within the space.

Mr Guerra was interviewed by prosecutors in Bergamo final month however different WHO officers, together with authors of the report, haven’t but complied with courtroom orders to seem.

“National authorities recently informed WHO about court orders issued by the office of the prosecutor in Bergamo. We have formally requested additional information,” the WHO advised the FT.

Mr Guerra had spoken to prosecutors “in his personal capacity” earlier than the official courtroom orders had been acquired, the WHO mentioned. “To preserve its objectivity and independence, WHO does not normally become involved in legal matters at the national level,” it mentioned.