Taiwan says WHO ignored early warning about human-to-human spread of coronavirus

As the world struggles to deal with a rapidly expanding pandemic, more evidence shows that at least some information about the new coronavirus was initially covered up by the World Health Organization [WHO] and China.

According to a new report by the Financial Times, Taiwan says that it provided important information to the WHO about COVID-19, information that could have helped the world to get ahead of the virus, but the WHO ignored it.

Can’t get the message out

The Financial Times got the information for its report from Taiwanese government officials, including Vice President Chen Chien-Jen.

According to Chen, on Dec. 31, Taiwanese health officials informed the WHO — through its International Health Regulations (IHR) framework — and Chinese officials that the novel coronavirus was contagious — that it could be spread from person to person.

Now, that sounds like a very important piece of information, something that the so-called World Health Organization should have passed on, but, the fact is, it did not do so.

“While the IHR’s internal website provides a platform for all countries to share information on the epidemic and their response, none of the information shared by our country’s [Centers for Disease Control] is being put up there,” Chen said.


Instead of spreading this vital piece of information, the WHO, on Jan. 14, announced that the new coronavirus was not contagious among humans. In making this announcement, it was echoing China’s position, which of course turned out to be false. China itself finally admitted that the virus was being spread person-to-person on Jan. 20, the Times reports.

This brings us to the heart of the matter, something that we have heard a lot in recent weeks, which is that the WHO is too closely connected to China to be trusted.

Here’s what Chen had to say about what happened: “The WHO could not obtain first-hand information to study and judge whether there was human-to-human transmission of COVID-19. This led it to announce human-to-human transmission with a delay, and an opportunity to raise the alert level both in China and the wider world was lost.”

When asked by the Financial Times to comment, the WHO only said that it holds “frank and open discussions on sometimes sensitive issues” with countries and that to maintain the trust needed for such discussions it needs to “respect the confidentiality of such communications.”

If only we had known

It should be noted that Taiwan has handled the coronavirus perhaps better than just about anyone else. It has only had 153 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and of those, only two deaths.

No doubt, we all could have done better if we could have received Taiwan’s message about coronavirus much sooner. I guess we can thank the WHO for that.

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