China Demanded WHO to Delay Declaring COVID-19 Outbreak a Global Pandemic

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus |

The German media reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping directly demanded the World Health Organization (WHO) to delay the declaration of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in January this year.

The January 21 conversation between Jinping and WHO leader Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was reported in Der Spiegel, which cited intelligence from Germany's federal intelligence service, known as the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND).

The report published over the weekend said the Chinese leader urged Ghebreyesus to hold back information on human-to-human transmission and delay a pandemic warning, the paper reports, citing sources in Germany's BND intelligence service.

WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 70 days since Wuhan Hubei Province in China revealed the pneumonia of unknown cause on December 31 last year.

By then, there were more than 120,000 confirmed cases and nearly 4,400 deaths in 110 countries around the world, and COVID-19 confirmed cases were spreading in South Korea, Iran, and Italy during February.

The BND estimated that China's action to conceal information resulted in a loss of four to six weeks in the fight against COVID-19.

The WHO immediately released a statement on Twitter calling the allegations "unfounded and untrue."

"Dr. Tedros and President Xi did not speak on January 21 and they have never spoken by phone. Such inaccurate reports distract and detract from WHO's and the world's efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic," the statement read.

Previously, President Trump made an appearance at Fox News virtual town hall meeting on May 3, and blasted China saying, "It's a terrible thing. A terrible thing that happened to our country. It came from China. It should've been stopped. It could've been stopped on the spot. They chose not to do it, or something happened. Either there was incompetence or they didn't do it for some reason, and we're going to have to find out what that reason was." 

"Personally, I think they made a horrible mistake and they didn't want to admit it. We wanted to go in. They didn't want us there. Even World Health wanted to go in. They were admitted, but much later - you know, not immediately. And my opinion is they made a mistake. They tried to cover it. They tried to put it out. It's like a fire. You know, it's really like trying to put out a fire. They couldn't put out the fire."

He also criticized the WHO for being a "pipe organ" for the Chinese Communist Party.

"They must have known more than they knew," he told reporters at the White House last month. "We knew things that they didn't know, and either they didn't know they didn't tell us ... right now, they're literally a pipe organ for China, that's the way I view it."

Trump also mentioned that intelligence has collected a very strong report and is very conclusive that COVID-19 originated from a Wuhan Lab. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also mentioned that there is a shred of compelling evidence that the virus has originated from Wuhan virus laboratory in China. 

"We don't have certainty, and there is significant evidence that this came from the laboratory. Those statements can both be true," he told reporters.

German Media, Der Spigel stated that while they doubt that COVID-19 originated from the Wuhan lab, they agree that if the Chinese government shared the information about the virus quickly, the effort to prevent it would have resulted in much better outcome. It furthermore added that while the US and Germany are allies, they need medical equipment from China, so German is placed in the tricky spot.