Report: W.H.O. Admits China Did ‘Little’ to Investigate Origins of the Coronavirus

This photo taken on February 20, 2020 shows doctors looking at a lung CT image at a hospital in Yunmeng county, Xiaogan city, in China's central Hubei province. - China on February 21 touted a big drop in new cases of the coronavirus as a sign it has contained the …
Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) concluded Chinese officials did “little” to investigate the origins of the Wuhan coronavirus and were uncooperative with international investigators during the first eight months of the pandemic, according to an internal document written in August which the UK Guardian made public on Tuesday.

The document viewed by the Guardian was the executive summary of a travel report prepared by a W.H.O. team that met with Chinese officials last summer.

“Following extensive discussions with and presentation from Chinese counterparts, it appears that little had been done in terms of epidemiological investigations around Wuhan since January 2020. The data presented orally gave a few more details than what was presented at the emergency committee meetings in January 2020. No PowerPoint presentations were made and no documents were shared,” the report said of those meetings, which lasted ten days.

The tenor of this internal document was quite different than what W.H.O. officials were saying in public at the time, as the Guardian pointed out. W.H.O. representatives generally described the Chinese as cooperative and referred to ongoing investigations in China that apparently were not actually happening. 

The recently concluded W.H.O. visit to Wuhan, China, has also been controversial, with some team members reporting the Chinese inexplicably withheld valuable raw data, while others say they were satisfied with the information they were given. The Chinese furnished some analysis of the Chinese coronavirus’s origins to the W.H.O. investigators but refused to present the data and samples they employed in their studies. The document obtained by the Guardian states that as of August 2020, the Chinese were not doing much to trace the coronavirus, which makes the value of the analysis they gave to W.H.O. investigators in early February even more questionable.

W.H.O. gave a statement to the Guardian that tepidly admitted China’s efforts to trace the origins of the coronavirus were subpar and inconsistent with W.H.O.’s practices:

“In July 2020, [the] WHO was invited by the Chinese government to send a preliminary team to China to prepare for the work of the team of international scientists. The joint team of Chinese and international scientists began virtual meetings in the autumn of 2020.”

The WHO spokesperson added: “They visited Wuhan in January-February 2021. In the early days of an outbreak, the absolute priority is to save lives, understand the disease and suppress the transmission. But we also believe that the work to understand the origin of any outbreak should start early, when certain clues can be found more easily.”

In future, the spokesperson said, conducting studies into the origins of a disease should happen in parallel with urgently suppressing a virus and saving lives.

The Biden administration has been surprisingly critical of the W.H.O. mission to Wuhan, strongly implying the investigation was not sufficiently “credible, open, and transparent.”

“They’re about to come out with a report about the origins of the pandemic in Wuhan, China, that we have questions about because we do not believe that China has made available sufficient original data into how this pandemic began to spread both in China and eventually around the world,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday.

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