Italy’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic was “improvised” and “chaotic” in keeping with a World Well being Organisation report that was taken down from the physique’s web site simply hours after publication in Might.
The evaluation titled “An unprecedented problem, 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 printed on the WHO’s web site on Might 13, together with an introduction written by Europe’s WHO director, Hans Kluge, however was eliminated the following day. The WHO issued no public assertion on the time to point that it had withdrawn the report or clarify why.
In keeping with the 102-page doc, seen by the Monetary Occasions, Italy’s decentralised method to public well being coverage, in addition to delays in testing and tracing potential Covid-19 infections, contributed to worsening the result of the primary part of the pandemic.
“Unprepared for such a flood of severely sick sufferers, the preliminary response of the hospitals was improvised, chaotic and artistic,” the report mentioned.
In a written response to the FT, the WHO mentioned the doc was eliminated by the WHO’s European Workplace as a result of it contained “factual errors in among the knowledge and statistics” however declined to supply particular particulars.
“Whereas it was offline, a choice was taken to as an alternative use a brand new mechanism created within the early months of the pandemic geared toward serving to member states conduct intra-action evaluations and assess their Covid-19 responses,” the WHO mentioned. “The doc was, subsequently, 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the lead creator of the report, challenged the WHO’s assertion that errors within the evaluation meant it needed to be withdrawn. “By no means in 9 months was I instructed that the report . . . has inaccuracies and inconsistencies,” he mentioned in a written assertion to the FT. “Earlier than publishing even a brief piece for the web there are a number of tiers of approvals [at WHO] and rounds of feedback to grant technical soundness and company consistency.”
Italy was the primary nation outdoors China to be hit by the pandemic, with the demise toll topping 35,000 in the course of the first wave of the outbreak. The report, financed by a grant from Kuwait, was supposed to supply steerage to nations that had not been affected on the time.
In keeping with three WHO officers, who requested to not be recognized, the report was formally authorized by the establishment earlier than publication, at a gathering in Geneva on Might 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 by way of 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 answerable for the plan, is now one in every of 14 WHO assistant-director generals. He’s additionally presently a member of the Italian authorities’s scientific job pressure 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 in the course of the first wave, are already investigating whether or not errors on each an area and nationwide stage contributed to the catastrophic influence 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 court docket orders to seem.
“Nationwide authorities just lately knowledgeable WHO about court docket orders issued by the workplace of the prosecutor in Bergamo. We now have formally requested extra info,” the WHO instructed the FT.
Mr Guerra had spoken to prosecutors “in his private capability” earlier than the official court docket orders had been obtained, the WHO mentioned. “To protect its objectivity and independence, WHO doesn’t usually grow to be concerned in authorized issues on the nationwide stage,” it mentioned.