President Trump has decided to re-examine U.S. funding of the World Health Organization (WHO), which dropped the ball as the coronavirus began spreading in China and beyond. “We want to look into the World Health Organization because they really called it wrong,” President Trump said at this Tuesday’s White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing. “They seem to be very China-centric,” he added. “That’s a nice way of saying it, but they seem to be very China-centric, and they seem to err always on the side of China.” The facts are entirely on President Trump’s side.
Taking information from China, the origin of the coronavirus outbreak, at face value, WHO’s leadership went along with China’s initial refusal to even admit human to human contamination. By the end of December 2019, Chinese authorities were already suppressing attempts by at least one brave Chinese doctor to sound a warning about the outbreak of an illness resembling severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). However, WHO turned a blind eye. In a statement issued on January 9, 2020, WHO said, “According to Chinese authorities, the virus in question can cause severe illness in some patients and does not transmit readily between people. China has strong public health capacities and resources to respond and manage respiratory disease outbreaks.”
By mid-January 2020, the human to human transmission of the coronavirus was clear to Chinese doctors on the front line. Yet, WHO still stuck with the official Chinese government’s narrative denying the obvious. On January 14, 2020, WHO 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.” On January 16, 2020, WHO declared, “Not enough is known to draw definitive conclusions about how it is transmitted, the clinical features of the disease, the extent to which it has spread, or its source, which remains unknown.” On January 22, 2020, the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “I was very impressed by the detail and depth of China’s presentation. I also appreciate the cooperation of China’s Minister of Health, who I have spoken with directly during the last few days and weeks. His leadership and the intervention of President Xi and Premier Li have been invaluable, and all the measures they have taken to respond to the outbreak.” On January 28, 2020, Tedros and two other WHO officials met with President Xi Jinping in Beijing. “We appreciate the seriousness with which China is taking this outbreak, especially the commitment from top leadership, and the transparency they have demonstrated,” Tedros said with a straight face.
These are just the early examples of WHO’s medical malpractice. WHO’s leadership failed to ask critical questions about the origin and spread of the virus and failed to promptly undertake an independent onsite investigation by WHO’s own health professionals, with the objective of stopping the spread of the coronavirus at a time that it could have been contained. Instead, WHO unswervingly relied on the Chinese authorities’ disinformation about the coronavirus. But WHO’s medical malpractice didn’t stop there.
WHO delayed declaring the coronavirus a “public health emergency of international concern” until January 30, 2020 – waiting a full month after the first case of the virus was reported. An Emergency Committee was convened by the WHO Director-General Tedros to address the crisis. It stated on January 30 that it “welcomed the leadership and political commitment of the very highest levels of Chinese government, their commitment to transparency, and the efforts made to investigate and contain the current outbreak.”
Relying on advice from the Emergency Committee, Tedros issued his set of “Temporary Recommendations” on January 30th, which “does not recommend any travel or trade restriction based on the current information available.” Fortunately, President Trump did not listen to that portion of WHO’s advice. The president instituted very tight restrictions on travel from China into the United States on January 31, 2020. Just a few days later, Tedros committed additional medical malpractice of his own when he warned that such “restrictions can have the effect of increasing fear and stigma, with little public health benefit.” If President Trump had not acted early, many more Americans could have become infected with the virus and died. Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “One of the things we did right was very early cut off travel from China to the United States.” He called President Trump’s action “the right public health call.”
Tedros reacted defensively to President Trump’s documentable criticism of WHO’s handling of the coronavirus crisis under the director-general’s leadership. “Not only that we said we have been doing everything we can,” he said, “but we will continue to do everything — day and night like we have been doing to save lives. We don’t want to waste time.” The problem is that WHO wasted very valuable time, allowing through its inaction the virus’s spread to turn into a worldwide pandemic. The reason, as President Trump put it, is that WHO under Tedros’s leadership seemed to “err always on the side of China.” No wonder. Tedros knows which side his bread is buttered on. He owes his job to China’s strong campaigning on his behalf.
Tedros’s willingness to carry China’s water contrasts starkly with how former WHO Director-General Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland handled the 2003 SARS outbreak in China. Not only did WHO under Dr. Brundtland’s leadership recommend travel restrictions. She criticized China’s failure to report quickly the first cases of SARS and its lack of cooperation with the international community. “It would have been definitely helpful if the international expertise and WHO had been able to help at an earlier stage,” Dr. Brundtland said. “When I say that it would have been better, it means that I’m saying as the director general of the World Health Organisation: next time something strange and new comes anywhere in the world let us come in as quickly as possible.” China did not heed this advice when the coronavirus first reared its ugly head in Wuhan. Indeed, the Chinese government compounded the reckless behavior it had displayed back in 2003. Only this time, WHO’s current director-general is China’s apologist-in-chief. Tedros still has nothing constructive to say about China’s outrageous decision to re-open the wet markets where the coronavirus may have first been transmitted to a human being. As Michael Collins, a research associate for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote last February, “The WHO’s weak response to China’s mishandling of the COVID-19 outbreak has laundered China’s image at the expense of the WHO’s credibility… The time is ripe for clear leadership from the WHO based on science not politics.” To date, WHO’s leadership has been all about playing geopolitics for China’s benefit.
Not surprisingly, the United Nations bureaucracy is circling the wagons around WHO. After proclaiming WHO’s past accomplishments, Secretary General Antonio Guterres said cryptically, regarding the handling of the current pandemic, that “it is possible that the same facts have had different readings by different entities.” The facts speak for themselves. There is only one correct reading. WHO, under Tedro’s leadership, bungled its handling of the coronavirus crisis big time.
The Obama administration’s clueless ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, tweeted, “We all know @realDonaldTrump will do anything to divert from the his own disastrous response to #COVID19, but cutting @WHO funding during the worst pandemic in a century would be sheer lunacy.”
Continuing the current level of U.S. funding without significant reforms in the management and operation of the World Health Organization, beginning with the immediate removal of China’s puppet Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as WHO’s director-general, would be the height of lunacy. The United States is by far the largest funder of WHO’s budget. China’s assessed contribution for 2020-2021 ($57,439,805) is about half of the United States’ assessed contribution for 2020-2021 ($115,766,922). The disparity in voluntary contributions to WHO is much larger. Based on data for 2018-2019, updated until the fourth quarter of 2019, China’s voluntary contributions totaled $10,184,000. The U.S. total of voluntary contributions for 2018-2019, updated until the fourth quarter of 2019, was $656,092,000. China pledged an additional $20 million to WHO in March 2020, for which Tedros went out of his way to thank the Chinese government and people.
“If it were up to me, the whole world should send China a bill for the pandemic,” Senator Lindsey Graham said last Monday. “This is the third pandemic to come out of China and they come from these wet markets where they have bats and monkeys with the virus — carrying the virus — intermingled with the food supply. Yeah, I’d make China pay big time.”
The first modest step that the United States should take with regard to WHO funding, pending further investigation, is to immediately cap U.S. voluntary contributions for 2020-2021 to no more than $30 million – the sum of China’s voluntary contributions for the last two years and its pledge of an additional $20 million this year. That would represent a cut of approximately 95 percent in voluntary contributions shelled out by U.S. taxpayers to fund the China-centric World Health Organization as it exists today.
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