WHO Praised Beijing in Public While Complaining Internally About Its Withholding of Virus Data: Report

By Cathy He
Cathy He
Cathy He
Cathy He is a New York-based editor focusing on U.S. China-related topics. She previously worked as a government lawyer in Australia. She joined The Epoch Times in February 2018. Contact Cathy at cathy.he@epochtimes.com.
June 2, 2020Updated: June 2, 2020

The World Health Organization (WHO) struggled to obtain critical information about the CCP virus from Beijing in the early stages of the outbreak, contradicting the body’s public statements that praised the regime’s response to the crisis, according to recordings of internal meetings obtained by The Associated Press (AP).

The recordings show that WHO officials complained in meetings during the week of Jan. 6 that Beijing wasn’t sharing data needed to assess how the virus spreads between people and its risk to the rest of the world. Beijing didn’t confirm that the virus was contagious until Jan. 20, and prior to that said there was little to no risk of human-to-human transmission.

That talking point was repeated by the WHO.

“We’re going on very minimal information,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist and WHO technical lead for COVID-19, in one internal meeting, AP reported. “It’s clearly not enough for you to do proper planning.”

In another meeting, WHO’s top official in China, Dr. Gauden Galea, said: “We’re currently at the stage where, yes, they’re giving it to us 15 minutes before it appears on CCTV,” referring to Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television.

The revelations come amid heightened scrutiny of both the Chinese regime and WHO’s handling of the pandemic, with mounting calls for an independent investigation into the origins of the virus.

President Donald Trump on May 29 announced the United States’ withdrawal from the WHO over its role in aiding the regime’s coverup of the outbreak. The United Nations agency has been criticized for repeatedly heaping praise on China for its “transparency” and handling of the crisis, despite evidence that authorities suppressed those who tried to sound the alarm about the disease during the early days of the outbreak in Wuhan.

By the second week of January, WHO officials were exasperated at the lack of information coming from the regime, the recordings show.

“The fact is, we’re two to three weeks into an event, we don’t have a laboratory diagnosis, we don’t have an age, sex, or geographic distribution, we don’t have an epi curve,” said Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO’s chief of emergencies, referring to a chart used to show how an outbreak is progressing.

“We have informally and formally been requesting more epidemiological information,” Galea said. “But when asked for specifics, we could get nothing.”

Although a state-affiliated lab had documented the full virus genome by Jan. 2, the Chinese regime didn’t share the sequence with the WHO until Jan. 12. That was one day after a Chinese lab published the genome sequence on virological.org without authorization by authorities, AP reported. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus later lauded the regime’s efforts in sharing the virus sequence as “very impressive, and beyond words.”

On Jan. 3, China’s National Health Commission issued a notice to local researchers to hand over virus samples to designated pathogen detection agencies or destroy them, as first reported by Chinese financial magazine Caixin and corroborated by documents obtained by The Epoch Times.

The WHO, in a statement to AP, defended its handling of the pandemic: “Our leadership and staff have worked night and day in compliance with the organization’s rules and regulations to support and share information with all Member States equally, and engage in frank and forthright conversations with governments at all levels.”

According to AP, recordings from the second week of January showed that Ryan feared a repeat of the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak that originated in China in 2002, which authorities also initially covered up.

“This is exactly the same scenario, endlessly trying to get updates from China about what was going on,” he said, according to AP. “WHO barely got out of that one with its neck intact, given the issues that arose around transparency in southern China.”

Ryan criticized Beijing’s lack of cooperation, saying, “This would not happen in Congo and did not happen in Congo and other places,” likely referring to the Ebola outbreak that originated there in 2018. “We need to see the data. … It’s absolutely important at this point.”

He advocated for applying more pressure on China, noting that last September, the WHO had issued a rare public rebuke of Tanzania for not sharing enough information about the Ebola outbreak.

“We have to be consistent,” Ryan said, according to AP. “The danger now is that despite our good intent … especially if something does happen, there will be a lot of finger-pointing at WHO.”