Sligo man to the fore in defending WHO

Dr. Michael Ryan. WHO photo.

By Irish Echo Staff

When it comes to pointing a finger of blame ,President Trump employs a long one.

In pointing his finger of blame at the World Health Organization for the extent of the Coronavirus pandemic, the president's finger is being bent back, figuratively of course, by a sligo-born, Mayo-raised medical doctor named Michael Ryan.

President Trump stated earlier in the week that the WHO had severely mismanaged and had covered up the spread of the coronavirus while moving to pull U.S. funding from the Geneva-based organization.

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Responding on Wednesday to a question about the U.S. accusations, Dr. Ryan, executive director of the WHO's Health Emergencies Program, said that in the first weeks of January, "the WHO was very, very clear."

As reported by NPR, Dr. Ryan, whose basic medical training took place at University College Dublin said: "We alerted the world on January the 5th.

"Systems around the world, including the U.S., began to activate their incident management systems on January the 6th. And through the next number of weeks, we've produced multiple updates to countries, including briefing multiple governments, multiple scientists around the world, on the developing situation — and that is what it was, a developing situation.

"The virus was identified on January the 7th. The [genetic] sequence was shared on the 12th with the world. When WHO issued its first guidance to countries, it was extremely clear that respiratory precautions should be taken in dealing with patients with this disease, that labs needed to be careful in terms of their precautions and taking samples, because there was a risk that the disease could spread from person to person in those environments."

In early January, according to the NPR report, Covid-19 was known only through a cluster of atypical pneumonia cases, that being pneumonia with an unknown origin.

"There are literally millions and millions of cases of atypical pneumonia around the world every year," Ryan said, adding that in the middle of an influenza season, it was "quite remarkable" that a cluster of 41 confirmed cases was singled out in Wuhan, China.