WHO finally admits China didn't report about coronavirus outbreak
More than six months after the initial cases of coronavirus were reported, the World Health Organization (WHO) has finally acknowledged that China didn't inform it about the highly-contagious disease. Instead, the Chinese office of the global health body had notified about the same. This revelation comes at a time when WHO is accused of being hand in glove with China.
Background: From China, coronavirus traveled globally, took lives, destroyed economies
It was in mid-December that a new flu-like disease was reported from Hubei province, but China didn't speak about how deadly it was until weeks later. Now, the virus has killed 529,127 people globally and infected 1.1 crore. To control its transmission, countries enforced lockdowns, suspended travel, which in turn hurt their economies and rendered millions jobless. Unfortunately, the pandemic isn't nearing its climax.
WHO was accused of ignoring China's deeds, it defended itself
As more and more details about the virus emerged, WHO was slammed for not being proactive, not sending a team to investigate the virus' origins in China, and accepting whatever Beijing said on face value. On April 9, just as it was questioned, WHO released a timeline of its communications. It said Wuhan Municipal Health Commission reported cases of pneumonia on December 31.
China didn't report about coronavirus, indicates WHO's new chronology
Days later, on April 20, WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told media that the first report on coronavirus had indeed come from China, but fell short of revealing the source. And now, a new chronology released by the UN body clarifies that WHO's office in China apprised about "viral pneumonia". The office in China learned about it from a press note on the Wuhan health commission website.
After being apprised, WHO pressed China for more information
Thereafter, the WHO's epidemic information service also took note of another report in the US-based international epidemiological surveillance network, ProMed, that mentioned about new cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, whose cause was unknown. WHO asked Chinese authorities to provide more information about the disease twice — on January 1 and January 2. China finally replied on January 3.
WHO's alleged laxity cost a lot; US also ended relationship
As per rules, countries have to inform WHO about a potential health threat within 24 to 48 hours. WHO Emergencies Director Michael Ryan, however, claimed China immediately got in touch with WHO after it was asked to verify the reports. To recall, US President Donald Trump fumed at WHO for withholding crucial information and in May ended the US' relationship with the body as well.
Meanwhile, WHO also wants countries to get more serious
On a related note, Ryan urged countries on Friday to contain the virus' spread. "People need to wake up. The data is not lying. The situation on the ground is not lying," Ryan said. He said he understands countries are emerging from lockdowns to save their economies, but "you can't ignore the problem either. The problem will not magically go away."
WHO warned that more people could die
"If countries proceed with opening up without the capacity to cope with the likely caseload, then you end up in a worst-case scenario. If the health system stops coping, more people will die," Ryan warned, while emphasizing on following precautions, contact-tracing, and testing.