søndag 12. april 2020

How China Deceived the WHO

Back in January, when the pandemic now consuming the world was still gathering force, a Berkeley research scientist named Xiao Qiang was monitoring China’s official statements about a new coronavirus then spreading through Wuhan and noticed something disturbing. Statements made by the World Health Organization, the international body that advises the world on handling health crises, often echoed China’s messages. “Particularly at the beginning, it was shocking when I again and again saw WHO’s [director-general], when he spoke to the press … almost directly quoting what I read on the Chinese government’s statements,” he told me.

The most notorious example came in the form of a single tweet from the WHO account on January 14: “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus.” That same day, the Wuhan Health Commission’s public bulletin declared, “We have not found proof for human-to-human transmission.” But by that point even the Chinese government was offering caveats not included in the WHO tweet. “The possibility of limited human-to-human transmission cannot be excluded,” the bulletin said, “but the risk of sustained transmission is low.”

This, we now know, was catastrophically untrue, and in the months since, the global pandemic has put much of the world under an unprecedented lockdown and killed more than 100,000 people.