China's handling of coronavirus is a diplomatic challenge for WHO

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Beijing’s draconian measures to contain outbreak have delayed global transmission

The World Health Organization is having to perform a diplomatic balancing act over the new coronavirus outbreak, caught between China – whose draconian measures to contain the disease have delayed transmission to the rest of the world –and China’s critics, who say its behaviour is typical of its disregard for human rights.

At every press briefing, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has defended China’s handling of the epidemic in the face of critical questions, very often from US journalists. At the end of January, when Tedros declared a public health emergency of international concern – having put it off a week earlier under what was assumed to be pressure from Beijing – he praised China for protecting the rest of the world.

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