It’s been bandied about for a while that China withheld valuable information from the rest of the world regarding the seriousness of COVID-19 and that the World Health Organization (WHO) didn’t follow its own guidelines, putting the international population at greater risk. Now, Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the House’s China Task Force, says, “We must hold the Chinese Communist Party and WHO Director-General Tedros accountable to prevent another pandemic from China to reach our shores.”
McCaul believes that China violated international health rules with a cover-up and is leading an investigation into its actions, especially regarding the country’s past history in reporting contagious viruses. In 2003, China did not alert the world properly about the SARS outbreak, just as it failed to share information on the Coronavirus, which has so far killed more than 284,000 people globally. The GOP member said, “Even more troubling [this time is that] the organization meant to implement these rules, the WHO, blindly followed the CCP [Chinese Communist Party], delaying necessary action to protect people around the globe.”
In 2005, WHO revised its International Health Regulations (IHR), which require countries to notify the organization about any event that could cause a public health emergency on an international level. McCaul argues that China violated at least two articles from the regulations, including Article 7 which demands swift information-sharing “if a State Party has evidence of an unexpected or unusual public health event within its territory, irrespective of origin or source, which may constitute a public health emergency of international concern.”
The IHR specifies reporting such issues as:
- A pathogen with high potential to cause an epidemic.
- An indication of treatment failure.
- Reports by health staff on such cases.
- Heightened risk to the population, especially the vulnerable.
- An outbreak in an area with high population density.
WHO, according to McCaul, also violated Article 9 by not investigating reports of the outbreak, especially from Taiwan, which told the health organization of its concerns in December.
During a White House Coronavirus Task Force presser, Dr. Deborah Birx discussed the mortality rates on a global level. On stage was a chart listing countries and their infected rate — China was at the bottom of the chart; in other words, the country had the lowest numbers. Trump called attention to it, and the doctor responded, “I put China on there so you could see how basically unrealistic this could be.” She stressed the need for transparency and continued, “When you are the first country to have an outbreak, you really have a moral obligation to the world to not only talk about it, but provide that information that’s critical to the rest of the world to really respond to this credibly.”
The University of Southampton conducted a study on the spread of Coronavirus and “found that if interventions in the country [China] could have been conducted one week, two weeks, or three weeks earlier, cases could have been reduced by 66 percent, 86 percent, and 95 percent respectively — significantly limiting the geographical spread of the disease.”
Gordon Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China, told the Washington Examiner that “the best you can [say] for Xi Jinping is that he was reckless, but whether it was reckless or deliberately malevolent, it doesn’t really matter — China is responsible for what happened.”
The China-WHO Timeline
Nov. 17, 2019: According to the South China Post, documents from the Chinese government suggest a man had contracted COVID-19.
Dec. 16: The first Coronavirus patient was seen at Wuhan Central Hospital, according to Dr. Ai Fen.
Dec. 21: Dr. Ai Fen said Chinese doctors started tracking “a cluster of pneumonia cases with an unknown cause” and that these instances “occurred in Wuhan.”
Dec. 27: Wuhan Central Hospital took in another patient with COVID-19 symptoms.
Dec. 28: Seven new cases reported at Wuhan Central Hospital; four of those were connected to the wet market.
Dec. 29: Dr. Ai Fen notified hospital leaders about the virus, and the hospital warned China’s CDC.
Dec. 30: Dr. Ai Fen received lab results indicating a SARS-like virus and sent the information to Dr. Li Wenliang, who used WeChat that afternoon to post a warning about “confirmed SARS-like cases from the wet market,” adding that the hospital had “quarantines.” The Wuhan Health Commission sent warning notices to hospitals in the area about a “pneumonia of unclear cause.” Dr. Ai was reprimanded for “spreading rumors,” and Dr. Li was disciplined for the “negative impact” of his warnings.
Dec. 31: More than two dozen cases of Coronavirus were confirmed by Wuhan health authorities. Local wet markets were closed, and China informed WHO about the “pneumonia” but said it had “found no obvious person-to-person transmission, and no medical personnel have been infected.” By this time, however, several medical personnel had reportedly been infected. Also, Taiwan sent WHO an alert, claiming it was possible for the disease to transfer from human to human.
Jan. 1, 2020: The New York Times used cellphone data to discover that 175,000 people left Wuhan (seven million more over the next few weeks). The Straits Times said the Hubei Provincial Health Commission ordered at least one company to stop testing virus samples and to destroy them.
Jan. 2: A study by The Lancet revealed that, of 41 patients admitted with Coronavirus, only 27 were linked to the wet market. The Wuhan Institute of Virology identified the novel coronavirus, but the information was not released for another week.
Jan. 3: The Wuhan Public Security Bureau questioned whistleblowers, including Dr. Ai Fen, and, according to The Washington Post, forced them to sign confession letters admitting their “false comments” had “severely disturbed the social order.” The country’s National Health Commission banned all Chinese research related to an “unknown disease” from being published and ordered the institutions to destroy the samples or send them to state-approved testing sites.
Jan. 5 – Jan. 17: Amazingly, there were no new reported COVID-19 cases in China.
Jan. 6: U.S. health experts offered to go to China to address the disease, but China rejected the idea. Alex Azar, the secretary of Health and Human Services, said, “We made the offer to send the CDC experts in to assist their Chinese colleagues to get to the bottom of key specific questions like: How transmissible is this disease? What is the severity? What is the incubation period, and can there be asymptomatic transmission?” A WHO team didn’t go to China until mid-February.
Jan. 10: Dr. Li Wenliang became ill with symptoms of the virus and was hospitalized two days later.
Jan. 13: The first case of COVID-19 outside of China was reported in Thailand. WHO confirmed the female victim had not been to the wet market.
Jan. 14: WHO tweeted that “preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission” of Coronavirus. The Associated Press uncovered a memo on a secret teleconference among Chinese health authorities held by Ma Xiaowei, the head of China’s National Health Commission, who said that “the epidemic situation is still severe and complex [and] is likely to develop into a major public health event.” The memo also stated that “with the coming of the Spring Festival, many people will be traveling, and the risk of transmission and spread is high,” and “all localities must prepare for and respond to a pandemic.”
Jan. 15: First U.S. case of Coronavirus in a patient who had traveled from Wuhan to Washington State.
Jan. 18: Wuhan’s annual Lunar New Year banquet began, which drew 40,000 families for a huge potluck.
Jan. 20: President Xi issued the first public statement about the virus, saying it “must be taken seriously.” Dr. Zhong Nanshan announced on television that the Chinese government had known for days and more than likely weeks that the virus was transmissible from person-to-person. South Korea confirmed its first case.
Jan. 23: WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus voted against declaring the outbreak a public health emergency on an international level; he was the deciding vote. Wuhan lockdown went into effect, but by this time an estimated five million people had already traveled through and left the city for other parts of the country and world.
Jan. 24: The Chinese Lunar New Year, a week-long celebration, began, which meant thousands, and perhaps millions, of people traveled across China.
Jan. 30: Dr. Li Wenliang tested positive for Coronavirus.
Jan. 31: President Donald Trump imposed travel restrictions to and from China.
Feb. 7: Dr. Li died from the virus.
Feb. 16: WHO-China Joint Mission spent nine days investigating the Coronavirus outbreak and its origins.
Feb. 29: WHO said that it “continues to advise against the application of travel restrictions to countries experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.”
March 11: WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. By this time, 100 countries had been infected with more than 100,000 confirmed cases.
Read more from Kelli Ballard.
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