China’s secret deal with WHO to hide COVID-19’s origins – William Cole

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom & Chinese President Xi Jinping.

China has lied and covered up key information during virtually every stage of its coronavirus response—from the initial outbreak to the number of cases and deaths, and is still not telling the truth, observers, experts and politicians have warned. – William Cole

The Chinese government used an “aggressive” influence campaign on the [UN special agency] World Health Organisation’s (WHO) response to the initial Covid outbreak which led to it missing its chance to stop the pandemic, it has been claimed.

An investigation by The Sunday Times has revealed efforts by Beijing to control the agency’s decision making, sabotage investigations and even install officials.

Its report claims that the health body’s independence had been eroded prior to the global spread of the deadly virus in early 2020.

The publication claims the WHO failed to publicly challenge Chinese misinformation, delayed declaring an international emergency, and discouraged governments from placing travel bans on China to protect its economy.

It has also been suggested officials agreed a “backroom deal” with the Chinese to water down the inquiry into the origins of Covid-19.

This meant steering scientists away from the theory coronavirus actually escaped from a Wuhan laboratory, rather than coming from wild animals in a wet market in the city in December 2019.

The theory was initially dismissed as “extremely unlikely” by the WHO but now experts say there might have been “human error” at the lab. Pressure is coming from the US to look into the potential cause.

Covid-19 has since spread around the globe, and to date has killed over 4.3 million people, 130,894 of them in the UK.

Central to the paper’s claims is that close ties between the WHO’s leadership and China had impacted on its ability to challenge the country over the emergence of the virus.

It is suggested China has for some time been using financial leverage over poorer nations to install its preferred figures into key roles at the WHO as well as other UN-governed bodies.

Chief among the decision makers at the WHO is director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who is a long-time friend of China. He visited Chinese President Xi Jinping in January 2020, two months before the pandemic began.

The former Ethiopian foreign minister is said to have used his role to make further appointments that were preferable to China, including making Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe a goodwill ambassador.

Between 2000 and 2012, there were around 130 official Chinese finance projects in Zimbabwe, with some totalling hundreds of million of pounds to build hydroelectric dams and provide agricultural machinery.

In June last year, Zimbabwe was one of 53 countries to back the Hong Kong national security law at the United Nations, derided by Western nations as a clampdown on protestors and free speech by China.

Prof Richard Ebright

Professor Richard Ebright, a fellow of America’s Infectious Disease Society, told the Times that China’s efforts had a “decisive role” in affecting the agency’s failure to act.

“There was no scientific or medical or policy justification for the stance that the WHO took in January and February of 2020. That was entirely premised on maintaining satisfactory ties to the Chinese government,” he said.

“Through that process, the WHO actively resisted and obstructed efforts by other nations to implement effective border controls that could have limited the spread, or even contained the spread of the outbreak.”

The support for Tedros especially had a “remarkably high return on the investment” compared to the funds and influence used to help him get elected.

A spokesperson for the organisation hit back at the claims, saying: “WHO’s top priority is ending the acute stage of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

They later added: “The Sunday Times piece is riddled with inaccuracies, falsehoods, half-truths, unsubstantiated assertions, willful distortions and the intentional omission of anything that didn’t fit the pre-determined premise of the story.

“There have been several independent reviews of the global response to Covid-19, including the work of WHO, and these reviews note the work of the organisation and the early warnings we issued.

“Frankly, WHO’s top priority is ending the acute stage of the COVID-19 pandemic and we are supporting countries to implement comprehensive, evidence-based responses, based on the consistent use of public health measures and the equitable use of life-saving tools including vaccines.

“In particular, we are working to enable all countries to vaccinate health workers, older people and other vulnerable groups, at a time when 75 per cent of vaccinations have taken place in only 10 countries.”

China has lied and covered up key information during virtually every stage of its coronavirus response—from the initial outbreak to the number of cases and deaths, and is still not telling the truth, observers, experts and politicians have warned.

Beijing initially tried to cover up the virus by punishing medics who discovered it, denying it could spread person-to-person and delaying a lockdown of affected regions—meaning early opportunities to control the spread were lost.

Then, once the virus began spreading, the Communist Party began censoring public information about it and spread disinformation overseas—including suggesting that US troops could have been the initial carriers.

Even now, prominent politicians have warned that infection and death totals being reported by the regime are likely to be wrong—with locals in the epicenter of Wuhan suggesting the true tolls could be ten times higher.

Dr. Li Wenliang

Initial outbreak

Doctors in China, including Li Wenliang, began reporting the existence of a new type of respiratory infection that was similar to SARS in early December last year.

But rather than publicise the reports and warn the public, Chinese police hauled Wenliang and eight of his colleagues who had been posting about the virus online in for questioning.

Wenliang, who would later die from the virus, was forced to sign a document admitting the information he published was false.

While China has been widely-praised for a draconian lock-down that helped slow the spread of the virus, evidence suggests that the country could have acted much quicker to prevent the spread.

Samples analysed as early as December 26 suggested a new type of SARS was circulating, the Washington Post reported, but Wuhan was not locked down until January 22—almost a month later.

Wuhan’s mayor also admitted an error that allowed 5 million people to travel out of the city before the lock-down came into place without being checked for the virus, potentially helping it to spread.

Chinese authorities have also been reluctant to had over information on the country’s “patient zero”—or the first person known to have contracted the virus.

While Beijing claims the first infection took place on December 8, researchers have traced the virus back to at least December 1 and anecdotal evidence suggests it was spreading in November.

A lack of information about the first patient has meant scientists are still unclear how the disease made the leap from animals into humans.

Theories include that it could have been carried by a bat or pangolin that was sold at a market in Wuhan and then eaten by someone, but this has not been confirmed.

Early reports

Chinese authorities initially reported that the virus could not spread person-to-person, despite evidence that it was spreading rapidly through the city of Wuhan including doctors being infected by patients.

This was used as justification for keeping the city of Wuhan operating as normal through a major CCP conference that was held between January 11 and 17, with authorities claiming zero new cases in this period.

China did not confirm human-to-human transmission of the virus until late January, when large parts of Hubei province including Wuhan were put into lock-down.

Despite reporting the existence of a “novel type of pneumonia” to the World Health Organisation on December 31, Wuhan’s largest newspaper also made no mention of the virus until the week of January 20.

That meant people in the city were not taking precautions such as social distancing to stop it spreading.

It also meant that people had begun travelling for the Lunar New Year holiday, which was due to start on January 24 and sees millions of people visit relatives, spreading the virus further.

Furthermore, China delayed reports suggesting that some 14 per cent of patients who initially tested negative for the virus or who appeared to have recovered tested positive a second time, only confirming such cases in February.

That further hampered efforts at early containment of the virus in places such as Japan, where patients who tested negative on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship were allowed to leave—only to test positive later.

Authorities in Beijing were also slow to report the deaths of two doctors from the virus, including one who was killed on January 25 but whose death was not reported by state media until a month later.

Origin of the virus

Despite early admissions that the virus began in the city of Wuhan, China later back-tracked—even going so far as to suggest American troops had brought the infection over after visiting the province.

Lijian Zhao, a prominent official within the Chinese Foreign Ministry, tweeted out the claim on March 12 while providing no evidence to substantiate it.

“When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals,” he wrote.

Referencing a military athletics tournament in Wuhan in October, which US troops attended, he wrote: “It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!”

In fact, America’s “patient zero” was a man who travelled from China to Washington State on January 15. The case was confirmed by the CDC six days later.

Chinese has also tried to push the theory that the virus originated in Italy, the country with the most deaths, by distorting a quote from an Italian doctor who suggested the country’s first cases could have occurred much earlier than thought.

Giuseppe Remuzzi said he is investigating strange cases of pneumonia as far back as December and November, months before the virus was known to have spread.

Chinese state media widely reported his comments while also suggesting that the virus could have originated in Italy.

In fact, Remuzzi says, there can be no doubt it started in Wuhan—but may have spread out of the province and across the world earlier than thought.

Chinese timeline of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Infection total

China has reported a total of some 82,000 infections from coronavirus, claiming a domestic infection rate of zero for several days in a row recently—even as it eased lock-down restrictions in placed like Hubei.

But, by the country’s own admission, the virus is likely still spreading—via people who have few or no symptoms.

Beijing-based outlet Caixin reported that “a couple to over 10 cases of covert infections of the virus are being detected” in China every day, despite not showing up in official data.

Meanwhile foreign governments have heaped scorn on China’s infection reporting [which] cannot be trusted.

Marco Rubio, a prominent Republican senator and former presidential candidate from the US, tweeted that “we have NO IDEA how many cases China really has” after the US infection total passed Beijing’s official figure.

“Without any doubt it’s significantly more than what they admit to,” he added.

Meanwhile the UK government has also cast doubt on China’s reporting, with Conservative minister and former Prime Ministerial candidate Michael Gove claiming the Communist Party could not be trusted.

“Some of the reporting from China was not clear about the scale, the nature, the infectiousness of this [virus],” he told the BBC.

Meanwhile sources told the Mail that China’s true infection total could be anything up to 40 times as high as reports had suggested.

Death total 

Doubt has also been cast on China’s reported death toll from the virus, which currently stands at around 3,300.

Locals in epicenter city Wuhan have been keeping an eye on funeral homes since lock-down restrictions were partly lifted, claiming they have been “working around the clock” to dispose of bodies.

Social media posts estimate that 3,500 urns are being handed out by crematoriums each day, while Caixin reports that one funeral home in the city placed an order for 5,000 urns.

Locals believe that efforts to dispose of the bodies began March 23 and city authorities have said the process will end on or around April 5.

That would mean roughly 42,000 urns handed out in that time frame, ten times the reported figure.

Chinese aid packages 

As it brought its own coronavirus epidemic under control and as the disease spread across the rest of the world, China attempted to paint itself as a helpful neighbour by sending aid and supplies to countries most in need—such as Italy.

In fact, while the Chinese Red Cross supplied some free equipment to the Italians, the country purchased a large amount of what it received.

Meanwhile officials in Spain said that a batch of coronavirus testing kits bought from China had just 30 per cent reliability—unlike the 80 per cent they were promised.

China is also the world’s largest manufacturer of disposable masks of the kind being worn to slow the spread of the virus by people while out in public.

But as the disease began gathering speed in the country in January, China began limiting exports of the masks while also buying up supplies from other countries, the New York Times reported.

As well as halting virtually all exports of masks, China also bought up some 56 million masks and respirators from overseas while fears of a pandemic were still far off.

Despite reports from US mask manufacturers of factories in Shanghai being effectively nationalised, China denies it has any such policy in place and has said it is “willing to strengthen international cooperation” on the issue. – Mail Online, 15 August 2021

William Cole writes on crime and justice for the Daily Mail in London.

Wuhan Institute of Virology

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