Opinion

The World Health Organization is to blame

On March 3, the virus had already gone global and impacted tens of thousands, but the WHO was more concerned with language policing.

Anna Slatz Montreal, QC
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The coronavirus crisis feels as though it has entered a new stage in its life cycle. From panic and fear, we have graduated to the blame game. Perhaps because we are so bored and anxious, cooped up in our indefinite lockdowns, we are desperately searching for someone to blame for the situation we find ourselves in.

Most of us will turn to politicians. No matter what side of the political spectrum you fall within, there is plenty of blame to be cast upon the elected officials who shoulda-coulda-woulda acted in a way which might have circumvented this hellscape.

I see this type of blame all of the time, with viral videos and “gotcha” tweets dug up from these last two months showing politicians disregarding the threat of coronavirus and encouraging their citizens to live life as normal.

Politicians will even cast the blame upon each other. Most recently, Nancy Pelosi condemned Donald Trump for not having the foresight to predict the coronavirus crisis the United States is currently grappling with. In turn, Nancy Pelosi herself was caught in a video from late February encouraging her constituents to congregate, calling it “safe.”

Some of us will blame the media. Certainly, I have even given my share of condemnation to the journalists who continued to push false narratives in January and February despite rapidly rising global death and infection tolls. Some news outlets, like Vox, have actually had to scrub articles that were so callously incorrect in their predictions that it was irresponsible to leave them up, while some journalists have even come out and expressed remorse for not having alerted their readers sooner to the threat of coronavirus.

But it would be wise to keep in mind that behind every ill-advised policy and comment made by politicians and journalists, there was always a caveat.

“Experts say.”

Experts said so many things we know now were not just wrong, but downright irresponsible.

And who were these experts who were expertly guiding us into a pandemic?

The World Health Organization.

From December to January, the World Health Organization was quelling the concerns of the world by advising us that there was no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of COVID-19. These findings came from the Chinese Government, and the WHO did not seek to question or confirm them in any independent fashion.

As late as January 12, the WHO continued to advise that there was absolutely nothing to be worried about, going so far as state “[the] WHO advises against the application of any travel or trade restrictions on China based on the information currently available on this event.”

On January 28, the WHO claimed that China was demonstrating “transparency” in the information they were sharing about the virus, and still assured the world that there was no reason to be alarmed. It stated that China had a “commitment to protecting the world’s people,” heaping praise on China for its response.

At this exact time, Li Wenliang, a doctor in Wuhan, was slowly dying from the virus. Wenliang had tried to alert the world to that the Chinese government was hiding details on the real situation, and that the virus was far more deadly and transmittable than they were letting on. The WHO never commented on his findings or statements.

On January 30, the WHO again stated “there is no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade. WHO doesn’t recommend limiting trade and movement.” By this time, the virus had already spread to the United States and several other countries.

Into February, the WHO continued to insist that travel restrictions were unnecessary. Governments were listening to the advice of the world’s leading health body, and insisting their borders were not to be closed. Canada, the United States, and most European nations declined the need to ebb the flow of traffic from even coronavirus hotbeds.

In lockstep, pundits began asserting, with the backing of the ever-powerful “experts say,” that there was no science to suggest closing the borders to coronavirus hotbeds would work to slow the viral trend. Politicians followed suit. The “experts” said it wasn’t necessary, after all.

On March 3, the virus had already gone global and impacted tens of thousands, but the WHO was more concerned with language policing than providing crucial infection mitigation information for the public.

Again in lockstep, crusades against racism and de-stigmatization hit the ground again. The very same day the WHO decried racism, multiple politicians came out to the media and asserted the same concern. Dianne Feinstein and Scott Weiner both spoke out against the lack of business in Chinatown, with Weiner even attending a mass event in Los Angeles aimed at “standing in solidarity with the Chinese-American community.” In Canada, a campaign aimed at ramping up business in Chinese districts began.

The WHO was still standing by its line on border closures being ineffective on March 13, a date when Italy’s death toll alone had surged past 1,000, and the global infection toll stood at 126,000.

That same time, the WHO would finally declare the coronavirus a pandemic. Countries which had lagged because of their great “expertise” began to rapidly implement policies everyone knew should have been put in place weeks prior.

Quarantines began to be enforced. Borders began to close. People began to panic. Planes began to ground. Shelves started to empty.

The blame game ramped up. Everyone apparently knew something which could have prevented this crisis from reaching the state it had, or something which ought not to have been done. And yet… Why had nothing been done?

Because the “experts” had said nothing had to be. And those in power listened, nodded, and parroted.

“Experts say…”

I often wonder what the “experts” will say next. But one thing I can assure you is that I will very likely be doing the exact opposite of whatever it is they “expertly” recommend.

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