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One Belt, One Road, One Pandemic: Are China and WHO accountable for spreading the Novel coronavirus across the world?

Critics are raising questions as to why, despite repeated warnings from many experts, health officials and governments of various countries, did the World Health Organisation take so long to declare the deadly disease a pandemic.

At the time when the Novel coronavirus epidemic has reached a critical juncture with more than 3,40,000 cases being reported worldwide, questions are being raised whether China and the World Health Organisation can be legally held accountable for this pandemic.

WHO had declared the Wuhan coronavirus, which emerged from China and swiftly spread to other parts of the world, a pandemic only on March 11. Now, according to a US-based publication The Hill, critics are raising questions as to why, despite repeated warnings from many experts, health officials and governments of various countries, did the World Health Organisation take so long to declare the deadly disease a pandemic.

Experts like Bradley Thayer, a political science professor at the University of Texas, San Antonio, and Lianchao Han, the vice president of Citizen Power Initiatives for China, questioned why the WHO and its director-general waited so long when health officials from various governments alerted them of the widespread devastation weeks in advance.

Experts are of the view that this laxity and callousness has caused more than 14,700 deaths across the globe and that the organization’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, like China’s Xi Jinping, should be held accountable for recklessly managing this deadly pandemic. 

WHO tweet on Jan 11
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According to the report by The Hill, it is being alleged that Tedros, the WHO chief, not only turned a blind eye to what happened in Wuhan but also, after meeting with Xi in January, helped China to play down the severity, prevalence and the amplitude of the deadly COVID-19 outbreak. It is also being alleged that the WHO Director-General defended China despite its gross mismanagement of the highly contagious disease.

Even though the deadly disease had met the criteria like the transmission between people, high fatality rates and worldwide spread, WHO, which is the apex body responsible for public health, took months to declare the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic.

Read: 5 million people from Wuhan, the ​epicentre of Coronavirus, had left the city before China put stringent restrictions in place: Report

Many people are of the view that when Tedros should have been focussing on the global counter-pandemic efforts he was busy politicising and helping the Chinese President eschew his responsibility of tackling the crisis. Tedros used the WHO platform to defend the Chinese government’s gross violation of human rights. 

The report gives a few examples in this context:

  • It says that from its first case discovered in November to its Wuhan lockdown, and even until today, China has been dishonest about the coronavirus’s origin and prevalence.
  • People who tried to uncover it were detained or disappeared, their online reports and posts deleted. 
  • China has misinformed and misled the world, and Tedros joined this effort by publicly praising China’s “transparency” in battling the spread of the disease- In an early-morning tweet on March 20, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had applauded Beijing for its handling of the global pandemic, when China is largely blamed for spreading.

The report further reveals that at the time when the president of China, Xi Jinping, ordered its health officials to expedite the development of drugs by using “integrated Chinese traditional herbal medicine and Western medicine,” the WHO’s official publication, “Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19),” made a subtle change to it.

Chinese netizens were, however, quick to point out a discrepancy between the Chinese and English versions of a list of measures deemed ineffective against COVID-19. The English version listed four items: smoking, wearing multiple masks, taking antibiotics, and traditional herbal remedies. The fourth item was not included in the Chinese version. (Today the English version also has deleted that item.)

Read: Wuhan coronavirus: A pandemic that was started in China, covered up by China but China thinks calling it Chinese is ‘racism’

The report further throws light on the secret behind the cosy and symbiotic relationship between China and the World Health Organisation chief. China had reportedly pledged $20 million to help the WHO fight the COVID-19 outbreak, for which Tedros, the former minister of health and minister of foreign affairs for Ethiopia now the WHO chief, thanked Xi. The report divulges that China has invested heavily in Ethiopia, which is Tedros’s homeland. Ethiopia, now called East Africa’s “Little China” is China’s bridgehead to influence Africa and a key to China’s Belt and Road initiative there. This is the reason which deliberated Tedros to publicly praise the country, even though China knowingly misled the world.

The WHO chief is also being held responsible for making various misleading and biased statements. When President Trump took a critical step to stop the coronavirus at US borders by issuing a travel ban as early as Jan. 31, Tedros said widespread travel bans and restrictions were not needed to stop the outbreak and could “have the effect of increasing fear and stigma, with a little public health benefit.” He warned that interfering with transportation and trade could harm efforts to address the crisis, and advised other countries not to follow the US lead.  

Despite the fact that he was not trained as a medical doctor and had no global health management experience, Tedros was appointed as the WHO chief in 2017. A former minister of health and minister of foreign affairs for Ethiopia, Tedros is an executive member of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) political party, which came to power through a struggle in 1991 and has been listed as a perpetrator in the Global Terrorism Database. After he became the WHO’s chief, Tedros was critiqued for his attempt to appoint then-Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe as a WHO goodwill ambassador. 

According to experts, the coronavirus pandemic has further gone to prove that Tedros is not fit to lead the WHO. It is being believed that because of his leadership, the world may have missed a critical window to stop the pandemic.

The coronavirus COVID-19 is affecting 192 countries and territories around the world with more than 3,40,000 cases reported so far. As many as 14,776 people (according to the statistics available at the time of publishing this report) have succumbed to this deadly virus. As the world battles with the rising infection, many experts have held Tedros accountable for his role in mismanaging efforts to control the spread of the virus.

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OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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