Republican Report: CCP, WHO Responsible for Spread of COVID-19 | The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Republican Report: CCP, WHO Responsible for Spread of COVID-19
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Map of spread of COVID-19, March 19, 2020 (Sebestyen Balint/Shutterstock.com)

On Monday, House Foreign Affairs Committee Minority Staff released a report documenting how both the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) were culpable in the spread of COVID-19. This follows Minority Staff’s release of an interim report back in June. In a blog post, Lead Republican Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) stated that the actions of the CCP amounted to a “cover-up,” while those of the WHO participated in “gross mishandling of the virus that allowed it to turn into a deadly pandemic.”

CCP’s Cover-Up

The Report highlighted multiple ways in which China covered up the spread of COVID-19, including:

Persecution of health-care professionals and journalists. The Report accused the CCP of intimidating journalists, doctors, and at least one nurse who were warning about the spread of COVID-19, in what amounted to a “gross violation of human rights.” According to the Report, three journalists were disappeared after reporting on the spread of COVID-19, with only one of those three having resurfaced. Li Zehua, the journalist who resurfaced, claimed that he was forcibly removed from his apartment, detained, and quarantined (twice) by the CCP. Dr. Li Wenliang, who revealed confirmed cases on WeChat, was forced to recant his findings and admit to “making false comments” that “severely disturbed the social order.” He was one of at least eight Wuhan doctors arrested by the CCP.

A key element of the CCP’s suppression of evidence was that they withheld knowledge of human-to-human transmission of COVID-19.

Destroying/suppressing evidence. According to the Report, the CCP failed to notify the WHO about the outbreak in Wuhan, and covered up its knowledge that patients were testing positive for SARS and that a coronavirus similar to SARS-CoV was causing illness. The Report also accused the CCP of destroying valuable forensic evidence on the origins of the outbreak by closing and sanitizing the Huanan market on January 1, 2020. Additionally, the Report criticized the CCP for not sharing virus samples with the international community. Specifically, the CCP prevented the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) from sharing samples with University of Texas despite the WIV’s initial promises to do so. The Report also states that the CCP produced false statistics in an effort to downplay the spread of COVID-19.

A key element of the CCP’s suppression of evidence was that they withheld knowledge of human-to-human transmission of COVID-19. Wuhan hospital officials told the CCP that the virus was genetically similar to SARS-CoV, a virus that can spread from human to human. Thirteen days later, however, the CCP publicly announced that “there is no evidence that the new virus is readily spread by humans, which would make it particularly dangerous, and it has not been tied to any deaths.”

The Report also provided a list of more ways in which the CCP concealed the nature of the virus, including:

  • The failure of the CCP to notify the WHO about the outbreak of a novel disease within China;
  • The repeated failure of the CCP to notify the WHO of cases meeting the WHO definition of SARS;
  • The decision not to immediately publish the WIV’s completed genetic mapping of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, which would have shown its similarity to SARS-CoV and confirmed it to be a novel coronavirus;
  • The shuttering of the Shanghai lab that published the SARS-CoV-2 genome online;
  • The lack of new case announcements during CCP political meetings between January 6 and January 17;
  • The suppression of reports from medical doctors providing evidence of human-to-human transmission; and
  • The six-day delay in January during which General Secretary Xi Jinping and other senior CCP officials kept secret their knowledge that human-to-human transmission was occurring and that a pandemic was likely.

COVID and SARS cover-ups similar. The Report highlighted that the CCP cover-up of the origins of COVID-19 resembled the cover-up of the 2003 SARS pandemic. In both instances, the CCP

  • Waited to inform the WHO;
  • Subsequently hid information from the WHO;
  • Hid knowledge of the severity of the outbreak;
  • Disrupted press from reporting;
  • Kept its response secret until after Spring Festival travel began;
  • Limited access of outside experts to the epicenter of the outbreak;
  • Claimed the virus was under control;
  • Underreported the number of cases; and
  • Fired select CCP officials as scapegoats.

Earlier response could have mitigated majority of casualties. The Report asserts that “In sum, the COVID-19 global pandemic could have been prevented if the CCP acted in a transparent and responsible manner.” The degree to which the CCP could have mitigated the outbreak is astounding. The Report alleged that if the CCP acted only six days earlier, “there would have been much fewer patients and medical facilities would have been sufficient.” Citing a University of Southampton study, the Report also stated that by implementing travel restrictions, containment measures and contact restrictions (social distancing, masks, etc.) prior to January 23, the CCP could have reduced the number of cases by 66 percent (by acting one week earlier), 86 percent (two weeks earlier), or 95 percent (three weeks earlier).

Gross Mishandling by WHO

The Report also criticized the gross mishandling of the spread of COVID-19 by the WHO. Examples include that the WHO:

  • Did not investigate Taiwan’s and Hong Kong University’s warnings of human-to-human transmission in a timely manner, nor did it share this information with WHO member states.
  • Delayed declaring a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), despite being in possession of evidence sufficient to do so for at least seven days. While the WHO declared a PHEIC on January 30, the Report stated that the WHO had the following information on January 23:
    • The possibility of human-to-human transmission (from Taiwan and the University of Hong Kong);
    • Evidence of limited human-to-human transmission, as reported by the WHO delegation to Wuhan;
    • The confirmation by the CCP’s National Health Commission (NHC) that human-to-human transmission was occurring;
    • The confirmation of cases among health-care workers by the NHC;
    • The identification of a novel coronavirus as the cause of COVID-19;
    • The full genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2, showing an 87 percent similarity to the virus responsible for the 2003 SARS pandemic;
    • Ongoing mass international travel of people in China related to the Spring Festival; and
    • The confirmation of COVID-19 cases in Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United States.
  • Did not declare a PHEIC for apparently political, not scientific reasons. As evidence of this, the Report cites one member of the WHO’s Emergency Committee stating that declaring a PHEIC would be perceived negatively by people in China, which was a “self-evident” reference to the CCP.
  • Sent mixed messages regarding asymptomatic spread, the use of masks, and airborne transmission.
  • Spread CCP disinformation about the latter’s handling of the virus. The Report asserted that, according to outside experts, the WHO’s public statements were heavily influenced by the CCP.

Recommendations

The Report issued several recommendations, including a call for new leadership at the WHO (specifically, calling for WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to resign) and for the WHO to readmit Taiwan as an observer. The Report also called for an international investigation into both the CCP and the WHO’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as reforms to the International Health Regulations.

While a Minority Report, the Trump administration can use its findings to justify its scheduled ramping-down of State Department and Health and Human Services interactions with the WHO, with full U.S. withdrawal targeted for July 2021. Such ramping-down efforts include plans for State to redirect funds previously slated to the WHO towards other UN initiatives, and the Department of Health and Human Services to redirect staff from working in the WHO.

Further, the Trump administration can use the Report’s findings to further build out its recent memorandum of understanding with Taiwan in the areas of global health security, infectious disease prevention and control, and other issues of health care. The findings in this report could also help spur a legislative push to call on the Secretary of State to work towards a plan to readmit Taiwan into the WHO as an observer, such as the Republican COVID-19 Accountability Act (HR 6863/S 3683). Only time will tell if the CCP and the WHO will be held accountable for their malfeasance.

 

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