January 2020. One year ago.
It was the decisive month to stop the infection. But “for the whole month of January”, the Associated Press said that WHO officials have repeatedly complained that the Chinese authorities did not share material on the virus and the epidemic. But they did their complaining “in private”, in internal communications, while in public they praised the Chinese regime.
Not only AP. Taiwanese officials warned WHO as early as December 31 that they saw evidence that the SARS-Cov2 virus could be transmitted from human to human. But the UN agency, bowing to Beijing, ignored Taiwan. And in a note dated January 14, WHO explained: “The preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no evidence of human-to-human transmission”.
A year later, December 2020, WHO arrives in China to ascertain the origin of the pandemic. But, writes the New York Times, the UN agency has given the Chinese the reins of the investigation.
It was January, we said, and seated next to Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, the Director General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “We appreciate the seriousness with which China is dealing with this outbreak and the transparency it has shown”.
Seriousness and transparency? Did he mean censorship and lies?
By that time, China had reported more than 4,500 cases and over 70 people in other countries had fallen ill. Meanwhile, more than 5 million people had left or fled Wuhan, including the patient who is the first confirmed case of the virus in the US.
Tedros was a controversial choice. In Ethiopia he served as Health Minister (2005-12) and Foreign Minister (2012-16). In those years, China invested in Ethiopia and lent it billions of dollars. On February 20 at the Munich Security Conference, Tedros again paid tribute to Beijing, stating that “China has bought the world time.”
On January 23, the WHO emergency committee split over whether to declare Covid a health emergency. Tedros chose to wait. The virus had already spread to several countries and making such a statement would have let the world prepare better.
A week later he was forced by the evidence to declare an emergency. But by that time, confirmed Covid cases had increased tenfold. And all this time the WHO has been asking European countries to leave flights to and from China open.
Donald Trump was right about the WHO, calling it a “puppet of China”.
Not only that, but Taiwan, which has been very successful in stopping the epidemic, cannot speak about it in WHO meetings. China would be furious. The WHO would declare the coronavirus a pandemic only on 11 March. But at that point the official case count worldwide was 118,000 people in 114 countries. It was out of control.
The ongoing outbreak will offer many lessons on what to do to save more lives and do less economic damage during the next pandemic. But there is already a way to ensure that future pandemics are less deadly: abolish the World Health Organization.