Der Spiegel had some big news on the Wuhan coronavirus front.
According to German intelligence BND, China’s President Xi Jinping personally spoke with Dr. Tedros of the World Health Organization on Jan. 21 and asked him to delay calling it a pandemic and withhold information about human-to-human transmission.
This is pretty bombshell information.
From The Local.de:
Spiegel reported that German authorities also targeted China with criticism, citing “BND information” that Beijing pressured the World Health Organization to delay issuing a global warning after the initial outbreak in Wuhan.
“In a January 21 telephone call, Chinese President Xi Jinping asked WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to hold back information about person-to-person transmission and delay a pandemic warning,” the news weekly wrote on its website.
“According to the BND’s assessment, China’s information policy cost four to six weeks of time to fight the virus worldwide,” Spiegel added.
But here's what CNBC forgot to mention: pic.twitter.com/1VeLycbMni
— Rich Weinstein (@phillyrich1) May 9, 2020
Four to six weeks would have been critical to be able to head off the virus, as we previously reported. A study from March showed that had there been three weeks earlier action and information from China, that could have headed off 95% of the virus.
There’s absolutely no question the WHO was downplaying it at that point, as we’ve already seen. On Jan. 14, they told the world that the virus hadn’t yet been determined to be communicable between humans, although they’d already received reports from Taiwan on Dec. 31 that they thought it was.
Although person-to-person spread was confirmed on Jan. 21 (interestingly, the same date of the call, although both China and WHO surely knew it before then, as well as the same date of the discovery of the first case in the U.S. in Washington state), certain aspects of that transmission were still being downplayed, as this article on Feb. 1 shows.
There is still reason to believe the growing coronavirus outbreak in China can be contained, a top World Health Organization official said Saturday, pointing to some evidence that the disease may not be spreading as rapidly as is feared. He also downplayed reports that people infected with the virus may be contagious before they show symptoms — a feature that, if true, would make it much harder to control.
“Until [containment] is impossible, we should keep trying,” Dr. Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s Emergencies Program, said in an interview with STAT. The WHO declared the outbreak a global health emergency on Thursday.
The gargantuan efforts China is making to try to halt the spread of the virus is buying the rest of the world “precious lead time” to prepare for the possibility they might have to cope with it as well, he said: “We need to thank China for that opportunity.”
There was this critical piece of information that may have been downplaying: “Likewise, there has not been a lot of spread from cases discovered in other countries in tourists from China or people returning from China.”
China and the WHO also said there was no need to restrict travel at the end of January. Yet, China had been restricting travel internally, while allowing people to fly out of the infected areas to the U.S. and elsewhere. Fortunately, President Donald Trump didn’t listen to them and restricted travel from China.
WHO didn’t actually declare it a pandemic until March 11, long after it had spread.