Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
The head of the WHO isn’t annoyed his organization learned about the coronavirus from third parties. He isn’t angry it had to ask China for info more than once. In fact, he’s been covering for China.
Two days ago I explained that a revised World Health Organization (WHO) timeline now admits it didn’t learn about the coronavirus the way it should have – early, fully, and frankly from China’s national government.
What really happened is that, after China violated legally binding International Health Regulations, the WHO spent months implying otherwise.
On April 20th, a pivotal WHO press conference took place, a transcript of which was later released. On page 4, in reply to a question from a journalist, WHO official Michael Ryan discusses the early hours of the WHO’s involvement.
He mentions a report “from open sources from Wuhan.” He mentions “news sources.” And, since it was the topic of the question posed to him, he discusses a request for additional information the WHO received from Taiwan.
At seven paragraphs long, there’s nothing brief about Ryan’s answer. Nevertheless, the WHO’s top official, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, insisted on adding two more paragraphs of his own spin. When the person chairing the meeting attempted to proceed to the next question, Adhanom Ghebreyesus interrupted:
Can I? I think Mike answered it very well but it [sic] just wanted to summarise. In its email on 31st December one thing that has to be clear is the first email was not from Taiwan. Many other countries already were asking for clarification. The first report came from Wuhan, from China itself so Taiwan was only asking for clarification…
…We have all the documentation and the email we received from Taiwan was to get more clarification on the issue based on China’s report. So the report first came from China – that’s fact number one – from Wuhan itself. [bold added]
If the matter under discussion had been an outbreak of polio in Syria, would the head of the WHO have felt the need to jump in and say, three times, that the news came out of Syria? Of course not. It’s redundant. It’s equivalent to saying the sky is blue.
But here we see Adhanom Ghebreyesus actively running interference for China. Ryan’s answer had just revealed the bare bones truth. So Adhanom Ghebreyesus immediately makes a number of statements that mean nothing, hoping to bamboozle journalists and others who don’t understand normal WHO procedure. When this man talks about fact number one, he is misdirecting us.
In the WHO universe, Wuhan has no official status. It’s merely the capital city of one of China’s 23 provinces. No official lines of communication exist between Wuhan and the WHO. Within that universe, therefore, it’s beside the point to declare that the first report came from Wuhan or from Wuhan itself.
The WHO spends time, effort, and money maintaining a system in which designated personnel in national governments can urgently contact it, and vice versa. That system exists precisely for situations such as this. Here we see the head of the WHO doing his best to obscure the fact that China’s didn’t use it.
Adhanom Ghebreyesus isn’t annoyed his organization learned about the coronavirus from third parties. He isn’t angry that, after it was officially contacted, China dragged its feet for two days.
Instead, the head of the WHO is behaving like a PR person. Whose job is to make China look good.