May 18, 2020 / 11:21 AM / 7 days ago

South Korea calls for giving WHO teeth in face of new diseases

South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaks during a ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the pro-democracy Gwangju Uprising at May 18 Democracy Square in Gwangju on May 18, 2020. Jung Yeon-je/Pool via REUTERS

GENEVA (Reuters) - South Korean President Moon Jae-in called on Monday for giving the World Health Organization (WHO) more teeth to combat emerging diseases that threaten global health.

Moon, in remarks to the WHO’s annual ministerial assembly being held online, said: “We must update the WHO International Health Regulations and other relevant norms and augment them with binding legal force”.

Under the 2005 rules, WHO’s 194 member states are supposed to inform the Geneva-based agency quickly of any outbreaks. But WHO currently has limited leverage and lacks the power to enter countries to investigate without their permission.

“Infection-related data should be shared among countries in a more transparent manner and an early warning system and a cooperation mechanism must be jointly established,” Moon said.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Emma Farge

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