CM Murad Ali Shah has not been ranked ‘4th best Covid-19 responder’

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CLAIM: According to viral posts shared on Facebook and Twitter, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has been ranked 4th best in the world and 2nd best in Asia by the World Health Organization for timely measures taken to combat COVID-19. 

FACT: WHO Country Representative in Pakistan Dr Palitha Gunarathna Mahipala praised the governments timely actions taken to contain and mitigate the virus outbreak in a press release. The press release did not specifically mention or praise Murad Ali Shah.

A viral message began circulating on social media on 15 March 2020 that read “The World Health Organization has named CM Sindh Murad Ali Shah as 4th in world and 2nd in Asia for the best and timely steps in counting Coronavirus” was shared by dozens of Facebook and Twitter pages, with the most impactful posts gathering thousands of likes and shares. 

Image may contain: ‎1 person, ‎possible text that says '‎The World Health Organization of the United Nations has named CM Sindh Murad Ali Shah as 4th and 2nd in Asia after China in the best and timely steps in the world in counting its Corona virus, according to the BBC. KARAC KI AW AZZ ببه‎'‎‎

The message seems to be based on news coverage of WHO press releases and an interview published by The News in which WHO Country Representative Dr Mahipala praised Pakistan’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

On 1 March 2020, the World Health Organization issued a press release to its Pakistan specific website titled “WHO extends support to Pakistan as it confirms its first two cases of COVID-19” which quotes Dr Palitha Mahipala saying, “I am impressed by the swift and diligent way the Government has handled the crisis so far, and WHO is committed to support them every step of the way. The COVID-19 outbreak is a public health emergency of international concern; all countries neighbouring Pakistan – Islamic Republic of Iran, Afghanistan, China and India – have registered at least one confirmed case of the virus. It’s critically important that countries and international organizations work hand in hand to minimize the spread of the virus.”

As recently as 25 March 2020 such posts have gathered hundreds of likes, with the most recent example being a repost of the same viral message shared above which has gained hundreds of likes on Twitter, demonstrating that this is still a viral claim that needs to be verified.

Although the press release (which was widely republished by local news) praised the government’s efforts in dealing with the outbreak, it did not specifically mention the Government of Sindh or Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah.

On 5 March 2020, the World Health Organization issued another press release to its Pakistan website titled “WHO scales-up support to COVID-19 reference hospital in Islamabad as three more cases are confirmed in Pakistan” in which another round of praise for the Pakistani health department response was recorded, this time directed at the Executive Director of PIMS and his team. Furthermore, no specific mention was made of the Sindh Provincial Government or Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah.

On 13 March 2020 The News, a local publication with a history of reliable reporting, published an interview with WHO Country Representative for Pakistan Dr Palitha Mahipala. Although the previous two occasions where the WHO praised the government were widely republished to begin with, this interview was picked up by even more media sources. Around the same time, starting 15 March 2020, viral posts began highlighting specifically that WHO praised Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah. 

Moreover, WHO has not published any list ranking government officials responding best to the COVID-19 outbreak. Soch reached out to the WHO Country Representative for comment but have not heard back.

Summary: The World Health Organization does not prepare a list ranking government officials on their response to Covid-19. Although WHO Country Representative Dr. Mahipala praised Pakistan’s response to the outbreak, none of the WHO’s official press releases on Pakistan mention CM Murad Ali Shah in specific.

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