US President Donald Trump has accused the World Health Organisation of being a puppet of China and threatened to permanently withdraw funding if it does not “commit to major substantive improvements in the next 30 days”.
Mr Trump released the bombshell claims in a late-night tweet that included screenshots of a letter to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“It is clear the repeated missteps by you and your organisation in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly for the world. The only way forward for the World Health Organisation is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China,’’ he said.
“My administration has already started discussions with you on how to reform the organisation. But action is needed quickly. We do not have time to waste.”
The US froze funding to WHO last month. Mr Trump described the letter as “self-explanatory” outlining a litany of errors he warned had cost hundreds of lives.
The letter, which reads like a charge sheet against China, includes claims it suppressed early scientific evidence and allowed thousands of Chinese travellers to leave the country and spread the virus to ever corner of the globe.
“This review has confirmed many of the serious concerns I raised last month and identified others that the World Health Organisation should have addressed,’’ the US President’s letter states.
Based on this review, Mr Trump said the US now knew:
• The World Health Organisation consistently ignored credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in December 2019 or even earlier.
• The WHO failed to independently investigate credible reports that conflicted directly with the Chinese Government’s official accounts, even those that came from sources within Wuhan itself.
• By no later than December 30, 2019, the WHO office in Beijing knew that there was a major public health concern in Wuhan. Between December 26 and December 30, China’s media highlighted evidence of a new virus emerging from Wuhan, based on patient data sent to multiple Chinese genomics companies. Additionally, during this period, Dr Zhang Jixian, a doctor in the Hubei Provincial Hospital … told China’s health authorities that a new coronavirus was causing a novel a disease that was, at the time, afflicting 180 patients.
• The International Health Regulations require countries to report the risk of a health emergency within 24 hours. But China did not inform the World Health Organisation of Wuhan’s several cases of pneumonia of unknown origin, until December 31, 2019, even though it likely had knowledge of these cases days or weeks earlier.”
Mr Trump wen on to detail examples of China covering up early evidence of the coronavirus.
“According to Dr Zhang Yongzhen of the Shanghai Public Health Clinic Centre, he told Chinese authorities on January 5, 2020, that he had sequenced the genome of the virus,’’ the letter states.
“There was no publication of this information until six days later on January 11, 2020, when Dr Zhang self-posted online. The next day Chinese authorities closed his lab for ‘rectification.’”
Mr Trump accused the WHO of repeatedly making claims about the coronavirus that were either grossly inaccurate or misleading.
These claims include the WHO reaffirming China’s now debunked claim the coronavirus could not be transmitted among humans on January 14.
“On January 21, 2020, President Xi Jinping of China reportedly pressured you not to declare the coronavirus outbreak an emergency. You gave into this pressure,’’ Mr Trump said.
The United States also accused the World Health Organisation of encouraging other countries to close their borders.
“Your political gamesmanship on this issue was deadly, as other governments, relying on your comments delayed imposing lifesaving restrictions on travel to and from China,’’ he said.
More to come.