I was once involved in the election of the WHO’s Regional Director of the Western Pacific Regional Office (WPRO) which was held in 1998. At that time, I served as Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Health and Welfare (currently, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare), and I was appointed to manage the election campaign headquarters for a Japanese candidate for the post. I made campaign speeches for the candidate in Manila and Paris. The candidate was none other than Dr. Shigeru Omi, who now serves as Vice-Chairman of the Novel Coronavirus Expert Meeting.
As Regional Director of the WPRO, Dr. Omi devoted himself to many activities of the WHO, and particularly, he was praised for his leadership of controlling the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) which occurred in China’s Guangdong Province in November 2002, and spread in Asia and many other countries, totaling 32 countries in the world by July 2003 when the epidemic ended. He also contributed to the eradication of polio in the Western Pacific region including East Asia. In 2006, Dr. Omi ran for the election of the Director-General of the WHO, and was defeated by Dr. Margaret Chan. She previously served as Director of Health in the Hong Kong government (1994–2003), and joined the WHO in 2003 as Director in charge of the protection of the human environment, and was appointed Assistant Director-General for Communicable Diseases in 2005. Dr. Chan served as the WHO’s Director- General from 2006 to 2017 (two terms, ten years) delegating the People’s Republic of China. While she served as Director-General of the WHO for a decade, China increased its influence in the organization, and it has continued to do so until now. It is noted that in the past a Japanese served as Director-General of the WHO. His name was Dr. Hiroshi Nakajima, and he served as Director-General from 1988 to 1998, for ten years and two terms.