Role in relation to Covid-19
On 30 January 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) constituted a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). On 11 March 2020 the WHO characterized the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as a pandemic.
Facing this global challenge, it is expected that the movement of relief goods (supplies, medicines and medical equipment) across borders will increase dramatically in the coming weeks. Moreover, as the WHO notes in its 29 February 2020 Updated WHO recommendations for international traffic in relation to COVID-19 outbreak, “… restrictions may interrupt needed aid and technical support, may disrupt businesses, and may have negative social and economic effects on the affected countries.” It is critical that Customs administrations continue to facilitate, not only relief goods, but goods in general, to help minimize the overall impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on our economies and societies. Customs administrations are strongly urged to establish a coordinated and proactive approach with all concerned agencies to ensure the integrity and continued facilitation of the global supply chain.
This section of the WCO web-site is designed to compile information about the instruments, tools, initiatives and databases that can be utilized in the efforts to address the various COVID-19-related challenges faced by our Members and their stakeholders worldwide.
The WHO has come under fire over some aspects of its handling of the pandemic, and has been accused of being too deferential to China, considering the Communist party’s early suppression of information and punishment of whistleblowers. Much of the focus of the criticism has been on a 14 January tweet from the WHO that said “preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission”. But WHO officials also told their counterparts in technical briefings on 10 and 11 January, and briefed the press on 14 January, that human-to-human transmission was a strong possibility given the experience of past coronavirus epidemics and urged suitable precautions.
The WHO has also been attacked over its continuing exclusion of Taiwan from membership because Beijing considers it to be Chinese territory. Trump’s decision to cut funding was welcomed in some quarters, including by the Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong, who called the WHO an “arm of Chinese diplomacy”.
- South African police fired rubber bullets and teargas at Cape Town township residents protesting over access to food aid during lockdown.
- Mainland China reported a decline in new confirmed cases on Wednesday (46 down from 89), although an increasing number of local transmissions in its far north-east bordering Russia remained a concern.
- In Italy, one of the worst-affected countries, dozens of doctors and nurses have died from Covid-19 and thousands of healthcare workers have become infected.
- Australia jailed its first person for breaching isolation laws. The 35-year-old man will spend one month in jail after he repeatedly snuck out of a quarantine hotel to visit his girlfriend.
- New Zealand’s prime minister said she and other ministers would take a 20% pay cut to show “leadership and solidarity” with those affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
- The International Monetary Fund slashed its forecasts for global growth and warned of a slump in output not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
- Global cases moved towards two million.