World health organisation

The WHO’s bizarre war on e-cigarettes

When the COP26 climate change conference hits Glasgow at the end of October, the media will be out in force to discover how world leaders are going to meet their ambitious carbon emission targets. It will be on the front pages. Edited highlights will be on television. Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon will be elbowing each other out of the way to get in the limelight. Extinction Rebellion will be performing their doomsday japes outside. But when COP9 begins in November, few will notice. Admittedly, this event is being held online this year, but it would have flown under the radar even if it had been held in the Hague,

WHO knows? We still can’t be sure of Covid’s origins

Could Covid-19 have originated from a Chinese lab accident? When the virus was first identified, many pointed out that it was close to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. It sounded like a conspiracy theory. But it’s all too plausible. And there are questions that the long-awaited report by the World Health Organisation leaves unanswered. Only after the pandemic started did Professor Shi Zhengli, director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, notice that a close viral relative to Covid-19 had been found in a mineshaft years before. There was an apparent pneumonia outbreak nine years ago at a copper mine in Mojiang, around 1,000

Europe’s ‘second wave’ has fizzled out

Has the Covid ‘second wave’ already run out of steam? On 9 July, just when Britain was reopening the hospitality sector and other businesses, the World Health Organisation announced that the pandemic was ‘accelerating’. Much of the coverage in Britain also implies that we are possibly in the early stages of a second wave. But that talk is lagging behind the data. Globally, the number of new recorded cases peaked on 31 July at 291,691 and has shown a slight downward trend ever since. In terms of deaths, they peaked at 8,502 on 17 April and have also been on a slight declining trend ever since. On the worst day

How many Covid diagnoses are false positives?

Test, test, test said the WHO. And globally, that’s what everyone did: tests have detected more than 14 million cases of Sars-CoV-2 so far. The thinking goes: turn up, have your test, and if positive, you must have the disease. But that’s far from the truth. When virus levels in the population are very low, the chances of a test accurately detecting Covid-19 could be even less than 50 per cent – for reasons that are not widely understood. There are two issues about tests to get your head around. The first is the sensitivity of the test: the proportion of people who test positive, out of the population who

Taiwan’s balancing act is becoming ever more precarious

After a landslide victory in January’s election, Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen was re-inaugurated on Wednesday at a scaled-down ceremony in Taipei. As ever, Taiwan’s relationship with China was the central issue of the election. This year, though, a greater sense of urgency surrounded the vote, primarily because of the instability in Hong Kong.  Now, polling day feels like it belongs to a distant past, taking place amid rumblings of a new virus infecting residents of Wuhan across the Taiwan Strait. Although Taiwan has rightly received much praise for its response to coronavirus, the past few months have not been without significant difficulties. Above all, coronavirus has reinvigorated discussion of Taiwan’s position on the

Trump has a point – the WHO has failed

The United States has long regarded itself as better prepared for a pandemic than any other country in the world, but it assumed the disease would be flu, rather than a coronavirus. This was a failure of imagination. The Sars epidemic showed the world that coronaviruses can lead to acute and fatal respiratory diseases. The Asian countries that suffered most from Sars updated their pandemic response kits accordingly, with mass testing and patient-tracing technology. Neither Britain nor America thought to do likewise. In Britain, we’re starting to admit to flaws in our pandemic response. Donald Trump is less inclined to do so, and is instead directing his fury at China