Allegations about a cover-up of the severity and origin of the coronavirus by China have expanded to the World Health Organization (WHO). A German magazine reports that China asked the WHO to delay the release of an important detail about the coronavirus.
Der Spiegel reports that Chinese President Xi Jinping asked WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus not to reveal that COVID-19 could be transmitted from person to person. He also allegedly asked the WHO director to delay its declaration of a pandemic. The magazine cited a report from Germany's intelligence agency, Bundesnachrichtendienst.
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The WHO didn't declare that the coronavirus was a serious matter of international importance until late January. As a result, the German magazine said the world lost four to six weeks in mounting an international defense again COVID-19.
The German intelligence agency believes Xi called Tedros on Jan. 21 to request that the WHO delay warning the rest of the world about the pandemic. If other countries had known about it earlier, they could have suspended flights from China and started to take other preventative measures. Preparing earlier could have saved tens of thousands of lives around the globe.
The German report backs up what U.S. intelligence agencies have said, that China "intentionally concealed the severity" of the COVID-19 pandemic in early January. U.S. officials also reportedly said that China did that so it could hoard medical supplies. The Trump administration has claimed that China controls the WHO.
WHO denies the allegations
The WHO denies the German report's claim that it covered up the severity of the coronavirus at China's request. The agency claims that Xi and Tedros have never spoken on the phone, either on Jan. 21 or on any other date.
The WHO said in a statement, "Such inaccurate reports distract and detract from WHO's and the world's efforts to end the Covid-19 pandemic."
The agency also noted that China officially confirmed that the coronavirus could be transmitted from person to person on Jan. 20, the day before the alleged call took place. The WHO said on Jan. 22 that the data that had been collected "suggests that human-to-human transmission is taking place in Wuhan." However, the agency did not declare COVID-19 a global pandemic until March, which is when the rest of the world started shutting down.
China continues to deny claims that it covered up anything about the coronavirus.
"Groundless and false reports are also part of a disinformation campaign being waged against China by some Western media and politicians, Xin Qiang, deputy director of Fudan University's Center for U.S. Studies, told the Global Times over the weekend.
Is the WHO weak?
NBC News reports that the coronavirus pandemic and alleged cover-up involving China reveals that the WHO doesn't have any authority to force governments to reveal medical information or open doors to its labs and hospitals. The news outlet cites foreign diplomats and public experts for the declaration.
The diplomats and experts also note that the WHO has frequently taken on a deferential tone to China during the pandemic. However, they also believe it's misleading to suggest that the agency has the leverage or the power to force any foreign government, including, Beijing, to share information or provide access to medical facilities.
Lawrence Gostin of Georgetown University's O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law told NBC that the WHO doesn't have the power to "uncover any lack of transparency on the part of China." He emphasized that the blame for not sharing information about COVID-19 in a timely fashion lies with China, "not a U.N. agency with a broad mandate and no authority to enforce it."