WHO repeatedly colluded with China to spread misinformation about coronavirus
Since the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic first reared its head late 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) has repeatedly parroted China’s talking points as the latter downplayed the outbreak.
The WHO first echoed Beijing’s official statements that there was little or no risk of human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus. However, evidence later showed that the Chinese government knew about the severity of the outbreak but decided to hide it from the public.
Since then, the coronavirus has spread to more than 200 countries and territories; a total of 6,376,822 people are infected and 380,205 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Timeline of WHO covering China’s tracks
On January 5, China’s National Health Commission claimed that there had been “no reported cases of human-to-human transmission.” But even before then, cases of human-to-human transmission had already been reported in leaked internal government documents, which were obtained by the South China Morning Post.
Even when neighboring Taiwan cautioned the WHO about the contagious nature of COVID-19, the organization stuck to its guns, refusing to take action or even respond to the warnings. (Related: Chinese Communist subversion of the WHO undermined global pandemic response.)
During the Lunar New Year celebrations in mid-January, China continued to allow millions of people to travel in and out of Wuhan. At the same time, the WHO did not recommend any restrictions on international travel. It was around this time that cases of COVID-19 started being reported outside of China, with one case reported in Thailand on January 13 and one in Japan on January 16.
On January 20, Beijing finally admitted that human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus was occurring, though the WHO stated that additional investigation was still needed.
By January 24, COVID-19 cases were being reported in nine countries outside of China, including the U.S. and several European states. At the same time, videos circulated in Chinese social media that showed Wuhan’s hospitals overflowing with patients while medical supplies were in short supply. Despite this, the WHO stated that it was too early to declare a public health emergency.
The WHO also continued to refuse to recommend any restrictions on travel and trade. At the same time, a WHO statement commending China’s actions was used by the latter to criticize countries, such as the U.S., that had evacuated their citizens out of China and shut down their borders to travel from the country.
This would continue throughout February and March. Up until February 24, WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus insisted that the world was not “witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus.” Five days later, the organization questioned countries that had put up travel restrictions and other measures saying that they would have to provide the WHO “within 48 hours of implementation, the public health rationale and relevant scientific information for the measures implemented.” By this time, the virus was already rapidly spreading throughout several European countries, and more countries had started closing their borders.
It was only on March 11 that the WHO finally declared coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic.
Even as they did so, the WHO continued to heap praise on China. Tedros praised the country for supposedly not having reported any new domestic cases of COVID-19 on March 20. However, internal documents have since shown that the virus has continued to spread within the country.
China and the WHO under scrutiny from other countries
Beijing’s lack of transparency and the WHO’s continued support of the former – even as it bungled its response – has drawn flack from a number of countries.
In a March 25 press briefing, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned that every member of the Group of Seven — the seven largest economies in the world — was aware of China’s disinformation campaign.
“Every member of the G7 today saw that – this disinformation campaign … The Chinese Communist Party poses a substantial threat to our health and way of life, as the Wuhan virus outbreak clearly has demonstrated,” the secretary stated.
Meanwhile, the U.K. government has also been critical of China’s handling of the virus. An unnamed senior government official told the Daily Mail that China faces a “reckoning” over its handling of the outbreak.
Arguably the most vocal critic of China and the WHO during this pandemic has been President Donald Trump. In April, Trump directed his administration to halt funding to the WHO while it conducted a review of how it handled the pandemic.
“I am directing my administration to halt funding while a review is conducted to assess the World Health Organization’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus,” Trump said.
Trump has since announced his intention to pull the U.S. out of the WHO.