Italy health chief distances himself from scandal over spiked WHO report 

WION Web Team
Rome  Published: Apr 17, 2021, 10:18 AM(IST)

A file photo of coronavirus in Italy. Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Dr Silvio Brusaferro was drawn into the scandal after a leaked document from Bergamo prosecutors last week revealed transcripts of WhatsApp chats between Brusaferro and a WHO official, Dr Ranieri Guerra, who is under investigation for having allegedly made false claims to prosecutors about the report

The head of Italy's national health institute distanced himself on Friday from a scandal over a spiked World Health Organisation report into Italy's coronavirus response, saying he had no means to interfere with the UN Agency and had never censored even inconvenient information from the public. 

Dr Silvio Brusaferro was drawn into the scandal after a leaked document from Bergamo prosecutors last week revealed transcripts of WhatsApp chats between Brusaferro and a WHO official, Dr Ranieri Guerra, who is under investigation for having allegedly made false claims to prosecutors about the report. 

The report, published in May last year as a guide to help countries prepare for Covid-19, sparked a nerve because it revealed that the Italian government hadn't updated its pandemic preparedness plan since 2006.  

The report was pulled down from the WHO website a day after it was published and was never reposted, sparking speculation WHO spiked it to spare the Italian government embarrassment and possible liability. 

The WHO says it contained inaccuracies and inconsistencies and was published prematurely, before it had been fact-checked.  

Its lead researcher, Dr Francesco Zambon, says the report received all necessary clearances and believes it was removed because of political pressure and the personal interests of Guerra. 

Guerra had been in charge of prevention at the Italian health ministry during the years in which the pandemic plan should have been updated to conform to WHO and EU guidelines.  

Guerra has said the plan didn't need to be updated during those years and has denied he tried to censor the WHO report, saying he merely wanted it corrected. 

According to the text messages, Guerra used colorful language to inform Brusaferro that he had gotten the report removed from the WHO website and was working to make sure it had disappeared from other websites too. 

(With inputs from agencies) 

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