House GOP report says China cover-up and WHO failures worsened coronavirus pandemic

A new report from Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee contends the Chinese Communist Party’s alleged coronavirus cover-up and the World Health Organization’s actions allowed the coronavirus outbreak to grow into the lengthy and deadly pandemic that persists to this day.

The 90-page report, titled The Origins of the COVID-19 Global Pandemic, Including the Roles of the Chinese Communist Party and the World Health Organization, is severely critical of both the Chinese government and the WHO’s leadership, noting that “research shows the CCP could have reduced the number of cases in China by up to 95% had it fulfilled its obligations under international law and responded to the outbreak in a manner consistent with best practices” and asserting that “it is highly likely the ongoing pandemic could have been prevented” had China followed its obligations under the 2005 International Health Regulations and the WHO pushed China to be honest and transparent about the coronavirus.

“It is beyond doubt that the CCP actively engaged in a cover-up designed to obfuscate data, hide relevant public health information, and suppress doctors and journalists who attempted to warn the world. They deliberately, and repeatedly, disregarded their obligations under the 2005 IHR,” the GOP report said. “Senior CCP leaders, including CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping, knew a pandemic was ongoing weeks before it was announced. By responding in a transparent and responsible manner, the CCP could have supported the global public health response and shared information with the world about how to handle the virus. It is likely the ongoing pandemic could have been prevented had they done so, saving hundreds of thousands of lives and the world from an economic meltdown.”

The report continued: “The WHO has repeatedly parroted CCP talking points while ignoring conflicting information from reputable sources. Director-General Tedros [Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s] full-throated defense of the CCP’s early response and embrace of their revisionist history, as well as the impact of his actions on the global response, remains incredibly concerning.” The WHO later backtracked on its assertion that it had been alerted by the Chinese government about the coronavirus outbreak in July.

Johns Hopkins University as of Monday morning said there have been more than 31.1 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 961,000 coronavirus deaths worldwide, including more than 6.8 million cases and over 199,000 deaths in the United States.

There is evidence that China knew by late 2019 that human-to-human transmission was taking place, but on Jan. 14, the WHO tweeted: “Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.” As Tedros and the WHO publicly praised China’s response, internal recordings show WHO leaders privately complained about China’s opacity. In April, the U.S. intelligence community was reported to believe the Chinese Communist Party downplayed the outbreak and that China continued to mislead the world.

The GOP report highlights an ongoing controversy related to the WHO’s early response to the coronavirus outbreak, in which U.S. scientists were not part of the on-the-ground inquiry in Wuhan, China. The WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019 was made up of 25 experts from China, Germany, Japan, Korea, Nigeria, Singapore, and the U.S. — specifically the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. It arrived in Beijing on Feb. 16 for an investigation, which lasted until Feb. 24. A subgroup later described in WHO’s report as “select team members only” arrived in Wuhan on Feb. 22. Texas Rep. Michael McCaul asked Tedros for more details, but he “simply repeated the information provided by the Joint Mission in its public report.” The GOP congressional staff said the WHO initially “was unwilling to divulge which experts participated in the trip to Wuhan.” The Department of Health and Human Services told the GOP that “the Wuhan group consisted of three PRC scientists, the WHO delegation lead (a Canadian), the head of the Nigerian CDC, and an infection control expert from Germany.” It added that “the two Americans, who were willing to travel to Wuhan, were not selected for the trip” and “they are not aware of how the selections were made.”

The WHO eventually told the House Republicans that WHO team leader Bruce Aylward “spoke with the international members of the mission to determine and align on the most important issues to assess in Wuhan” and that “in consultation with the entire team,” Tim Eckmanns of the Robert Koch Institute and Chikwe Ihekweazu of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control were determined to have “the most appropriate skill sets for this mission,” and thus, the U.S. scientists were excluded. The House Republicans pointed out that “there is clear conflict between HHS’s position that they are not aware as to how the selections for the Wuhan group were made, and the WHO’s statement that the entire team was consulted in the decision-making process.”

The House GOP investigation also obtained a previously unreported disciplinary notice dated Jan. 26 from the Chinese Communist Party’s Discipline Inspection Commission for Taizhou City Number Two People’s Hospital regarding nurse Li Min, who was punished for discussing the coronavirus outbreak with her classmates on WeChat. The notice also “includes a broader warning to the entire hospital” and “is clearly intended to suppress discussion of the outbreak on social media platforms.”

President Trump announced in July that the U.S. would be withdrawing from the WHO, telling Tedros in May that the WHO showed “an alarming lack of independence from the People’s Republic of China.” Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, said that “on my first day as president, I will rejoin the WHO and restore our leadership on the world stage.”

The House report called for Tedros to resign, the next WHO director-general to invite Taiwan to participate in the WHO, the U.S. to stay in the WHO, and the U.S. to help push the WHO to “fix the deficiencies” outlined by the Trump administration.

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