January 14th, 2020, the World Health Organization tweeted:
Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan, #China🇨🇳. pic.twitter.com/Fnl5P877VG
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 14, 2020
The information ended up being inaccurate. Now, China is defending the WHO in response to the Trump administration sending formal notice of withdrawal.
Per MSN, China on Wednesday defended the World Health Organization and lashed out at the U.S. decision to withdraw from the U.N. body.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the move was “another demonstration of the U.S. pursuing unilateralism, withdrawing from groups and breaking contracts.”
WHO is “the most authoritative and professional international institution in the field of global public health security,” Zhao said at a daily briefing.
The U.S. departure from the organization “undermines the international anti-epidemic efforts, and in particular has a serious negative impact on developing countries in urgent need of international support,” Zhao said.
Per Orlando Sentinel, the Trump administration has formally notified the United Nations of its withdrawal from the World Health Organization, although the pullout won’t take effect until next year, meaning it could be rescinded under a new administration or if circumstances change. Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said he would reverse the decision on his first day in office if elected.
The withdrawal notification makes good on President Donald Trump’s vow in late May to terminate U.S. participation in the WHO, which he has harshly criticized for its response to the coronavirus pandemic and accused of bowing to Chinese influence.
The move was immediately assailed by health officials and critics of the administration, including numerous Democrats who said it would cost the U.S. influence in the global arena.
Biden has said in the past he supports the WHO and pledged Tuesday to rejoin the WHO if he defeats Trump in November. “Americans are safer when America is engaged in strengthening global health. On my first day as president, I will rejoin the WHO and restore our leadership on the world stage,” he said.
Business Insider reported the World Health Organization changed its coronavirus timeline to say it first heard about the coronavirus from a press release online, rather than a report from Chinese authorities.
In the revision, published June 30, the WHO said that on December 31, 2019, “WHO’s Country Office in the People’s Republic of China picked up a media statement by the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission from their website on cases of ‘viral pneumonia’ in Wuhan, People’s Republic of China.”
That same day, the WHO’s open-source intelligence platform also picked up a Chinese-language news report from Finance Sina, a Chinese outlet, about the same cluster of cases in Wuhan, attributed to a “pneumonia of unknown cause,” the agency said.
The WHO requested further information about the reports from China the next day — on January 1, 2020 — but only got a response two days later, on January 3.
In a previous chronology, published in April, the WHO had said that it found out about the cases from the Wuhan municipal health commission, without specifying where or how it was notified, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The revised chronology now shows that the WHO’s China office, not Chinese authorities, had raised the first alert.
According to AFP, WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan told reporters on Friday that countries have 24 to 48 hours to verify an event and tell the WHO about it, and that Chinese authorities had immediately contacted the WHO as soon as the agency asked about the reports.
China has been accused of covering up the coronavirus in its early days, suppressing key information to its citizens and the WHO.
The Associated Press (AP) reported last month that China delayed the release of critical information about the outbreak to the public and the WHO for several days, and waited more than a week to release the virus’ genome — actions that likely delayed the development of vaccines, drugs, and diagnostic tests.
The AP also reported in April that top Chinese leaders had known for six days in January that the coronavirus could become a deadly pandemic, but told the world the virus posed a low risk to people and could not be transmitted between humans.
At the same time, the WHO, which relies on countries to provide their own data, took China at its word and offered the same advice — which has since proven to be wrong.