Italy’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic was “improvised” and “chaotic” in line with a World Well being Organisation report that was taken down from the physique’s web site simply hours after publication in Could.
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 Could 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 The WHO issued no public assertion on the time to point that it had withdrawn the report or clarify why.
Based on the 102-page doc, seen by the Monetary Instances, 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 end result of the primary part of the pandemic.
“Unprepared for such a flood of severely unwell sufferers, the preliminary response of the hospitals was improvised, chaotic and inventive,” 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 a few of the information 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 aimed 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the lead writer of the report, challenged the WHO’s assertion that errors within the evaluation meant it needed to be withdrawn.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 advised 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 exterior China to be hit by the pandemic, with the loss of life 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 steering to nations that had not been affected on the time.
Based on three WHO officers, who requested to not be recognized, the report was formally accredited by the establishment earlier than publication, at a gathering in Geneva on Could 11 chaired by Sylvie Briand, the WHO’s director of world 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 absolutely up to date that 12 months.
Ranieri Guerra, who because the Italian well being ministry’s chief medical officer from 2014 to 2017 was liable for the plan, is now certainly one of 14 WHO assistant-director generals. He’s additionally presently a member of the Italian authorities’s scientific job drive 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 a neighborhood and nationwide stage contributed to the catastrophic impression 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.
“Nationwide authorities not too long ago knowledgeable WHO about courtroom orders issued by the workplace of the prosecutor in Bergamo. We’ve got formally requested extra info,” the WHO advised the FT.
Mr Guerra had spoken to prosecutors “in his private capability” earlier than the official courtroom orders had been obtained, the WHO mentioned. “To protect its objectivity and independence, WHO doesn’t usually develop into concerned in authorized issues on the nationwide stage,” it mentioned.