The World Health Organization was the earliest agency to downplay concerns about the coronavirus. As late as mid-January, the WHO stated—regurgitating China’s official line—that there was no need to worry about COVID-19, and that there was “no clear evidence” of person-to-person transmission. Taiwan disagreed, but the nation’s warnings went unheeded by the WHO and the rest of the world on the advice of the United Nations organization.
China was allowed to profit from its refusal to share honest data with the international community—actions Taiwan says were abetted by the WHO. The pandemic that shouldn’t have been one has now ravaged the world economy and caused the deaths of over 100,000 people—a figure that grows exponentially with each passing week.
Today, Taiwan released the contents of a December email inquiring about the person-to-person transmission of the coronavirus. The country says the message was ignored by the organization, which also refused to provide adequate information on how to fight the virus in the event that it was transmissible.
In a statement today, the Taiwanese government accused the WHO of downplaying the severity of the disease to pander to China. Taiwan, it said, issued warnings about seven cases of “atypical pneumonia” (later confirmed to be cases of COVID-19) that their intelligence was made aware of in Wuhan, the epicenter of the disease.
Taiwan said China’s health authorities said, “The cases were believed not SARS; however samples are still under examination, and cases have been isolated for treatment” in response to inquiries by the media in the contents of the email sent by Taiwan’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention to the WHO. The email is dated December 31, 2019.
The WHO, which has historically excluded Taiwan from becoming a member due to interference from China, denies that Taiwan ever alerted the organization to the potential person-to-person spread of the virus. Taiwan disagrees, stating that it clearly mentioned “atypical pneumonia”—a phrase the country says “public health professionals could discern from this wording that there was a real possibility of human-to-human transmission of the disease” due to its similarities to the SARS coronavirus, which broke out in Hong Kong in 2003.
Taiwan said that the WHO and Chinese CDC refused to provide adequate information on tackling the illness—information it says was crucial to mitigating, if not preparing countries for the eventual spread of COVID-19.
Despite repeated warnings, the WHO continued to toe the Chinese line, stating in a January 14 tweet that “there was no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in Wuhan, China.”
Further preventing international health authorities from investigating the disease, the WHO failed to mandate that China share viral strains. This effort would have allowed for the creation of diagnostic tests, allowing the rest of the world to create diagnostic tests to test inbound travellers for the disease and isolate those and others they came into contact with and therefore mitigate the spread of the virus before it became a pandemic.
As it stands, China was the earliest country to produce tests—many that it would later sell to European countries and private hospitals worldwide. A large portion of the tests produce in China were found to be defective.
In other words, China’s refusal to share its data allowed it to massively profit from the pandemic as other countries struggled to mitigate the spread of a disease that was difficult to positively identify due to its 14-day asymptomatic period.