In light of the missteps and misinformation of the World Health Organization and their unwillingness to waiver from Chinese Communist Party talking points with regard to the COVID-19 coronavirus, the Trudeau government should have offered condemnation. Instead they have been apologists for the WHO.
The day after President Donald Trump announced that the US intended to withhold WHO funding, Trudeau’s International Development Minister Karina Gould expressed disappointment.
Gould said: “We’re going to have to figure out as a global community how we ensure that the WHO and other multilateral organizations that are playing a really important role in the response to COVID-19, but also other development and humanitarian challenges, have the resources that they need to effectively combat this pandemic.”
In a telephone call with WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Gould relayed how much Canada appreciated the “WHO’s leadership." This in response to the organization that took the Chinese Communist Party’s word as to the nature of the illness, its ability to spread, the extent of their casualties, its origin, and the effectiveness of their treatments.
Gould wasn’t the only Trudeau minister to praise the WHO. Trudeau’s Global Affairs Minister Francois-Phillippe Champagne signed a Joint Statement of the “Alliance for multilateralism” which expressed full support of the WHO in leading the global health response to COVID-19.
The WHO has completely mishandled COVID-19, yet the Trudeau government’s continued support for their attempt to coordinate the global health response is at the very least curious and arguably dangerous.
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, the WHO has failed to provide timely and objective information on the threat posed by COVID-19. The WHO and Tedros have proven to be influenced by the representations of the Chinese Communist Party at the expense of global public health.
On December 31, before leaks of the virus or information surrounding it, Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center sounded the alarm about the threat of human-to-human transmission of a new coronavirus. The WHO ignored Taiwan, refusing to publish the warning.
Throughout January, as coronavirus cases mounted in Wuhan and other parts of China, the WHO parroted claims of the Chinese Communist Party that there was “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus.
Only after China revised its claims about human-to-human transmission did the WHO concede that this was a risk. Again, the WHO took their view from China’s authoritarian regime.
Had the WHO warned of the risk earlier, instead of waiting on China, it could have helped significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19 outside of China.
Taiwan took human-to-human transmission seriously and implemented early preventative measures. As a result, Taiwan has been one of the most successful jurisdictions in the world in containing COVID-19 with fewer than 450 cases and only six deaths. Instead, the WHO repeatedly downplayed the risk of COVID-19 and the extent to which it was rapidly spreading.
On January 23, Tedros said that there is “no evidence of human-to-human transmission outside of China." By then there were multiple reported cases outside of China.
When several countries took early measures to halt travel from the COVID hotspot of Wuhan, Tedros criticized those measures as unnecessary stating that the “WHO doesn’t recommend limiting trade and movement.”
Canada listened to the WHO while the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, and several European countries quickly imposed travel bans. Canada did not impose timely travel bans.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu, heeding the advice of Tedros, maintained that “there isn’t evidence” on the efficacy of travel bans. As a result, more than 2,000 people from Hubei province, where the virus is believed to have originated, entered Canada on flights from China.
As the WHO downplayed the risk, and lectured countries for taking preventative measures, its praise of China’s response knew no bounds.
On January 23 Tedros commended China “for its cooperation and transparency." SEven days later, after meeting with President Xi Jinping, Tedros said he had “absolutely no doubt about China’s commitment… to protecting the world’s people” and noted the WHO’s exhaustive “confidence in China’s capacity to control the outbreak.”
Tedros praised China’s approach throughout January, but the WHO wasn’t even allowed to enter Wuhan until the end of February. Tedros has often seemed more preoccupied with defending China from criticism than working to stop the spread of the virus or question CCP disseminated information.
On February 8, Tedros infamously commented that the WHO wasn’t “just battling the virus; we’re also battling the trolls and conspiracy theorists that push misinformation and undermine the outbreak of the response.” Tedros complained about the “significant risk in amplifying unjustified fear and stigma.” Minister Hajdu, seemingly on cue, expressed her concern about an “outbreak of fear." Dr. Michael Ryan, the Executive Director of the WHO, warned against “profiling” China.
These concerns about perception and rhetoric were taking center stage while COVID numbers were doubling in South Korea, over 3,000 deaths had been reported in the US, and northern Italy was experiencing a serious outbreak.
Tedros maintained that “[o]utside of China we have not yet seen sustained local transmission” and noted that “[w]e are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus.”
It wasn’t until March 11 that Tedros and the WHO finally woke up to the reality that this was more than just a language war and declared a global pandemic. By the time the WHO came to this realization, COVID-19 had spread to at least 110 countries and over 118,000 cases had been reported across the globe.
By any estimation, this is a disastrous record. It would be reasonable to think that the Trudeau government would put a pause on WHO praise. In fairness, Gould, in her conversation with Tedros, spoke of the need for joint “post-crisis after-action review." But that’s putting it mildly and it was only after she lavished praise on the WHO.
Trudeau and his Ministers should be demanding answers about why the WHO ignored warnings, downplayed risks, took Chinese Communist Party representations at face-value, and waited until it was too late to declare a global pandemic. On these serious questions, the silence from Trudeau and his Ministers is deafening.
One could reasonably infer that this silence is attributable to an ideologically-driven blind faith in the WHO. The health and safety of Canadians is not better off for it.
Michael Cooper is a Conservative Member of Parliament from Alberta.