The head of Italy’s national health agency has avoided scandals over the World Health Organization’s surging reports of Italy’s coronavirus response.
The report, published in May last year as a guide to help countries prepare for COVID-19, sparked jitters by revealing that the Italian government had not updated its pandemic preparedness plans since 2006.The report was pulled from the WHO website the day after it was published and has never been reposted. , fueling speculation that the WHO has fixed it to avoid embarrassment and possible responsibility for the Italian government.
The WHO says it contains inaccuracies and inconsistencies and was published prematurely, prior to fact-checking. The principal investigator, Dr. Francesco Zambon, said the report received all necessary permits and believed it was removed due to political pressure and Guerra’s personal interests.
Guerra has been in charge of prevention at the Italian health ministry for years in which the pandemic plan had to be updated to comply with WHO and EU guidelines. Guerra said the plan didn’t need updating during those years and denied he tried to censor the WHO report, saying he just wanted it fixed.
According to the text message, Guerra used colorful language to tell Brusaferro that he had removed the report from the WHO website and was working to ensure it also disappeared from other websites.
“I am brutalized by the stupidity of the Venice documents,” wrote Guerra, referring to the Zambon team based in Venice. “I hope to also make some irreparable heads spin.”
Brusaferro noted at a press conference Friday that he only received messages from Guerra and made no judgments about what he texted.
Brusaferro added that no one at the Institute of Superior Health had seen the WHO report before it was published and did not really care about its content because of its shock of publication. He said the institute did not have the mandate or capacity to interfere with the UN report and denied trying to cover it up.
“My colleague’s (Guerra) form of expression is his own,” said Brusaferro, referring to Guerra’s messages. “For me, I don’t think I’ve ever – and not only on this occasion, but I’m sure it’s not part of my character or way of communicating – using a tone that’s totally offensive, friendly and pleasant.”