World Health Organization protects China instead of coronavirus victims

Ross Marchand

March 11, 2020

This article was originally published in the Washington Examiner on March 11, 2020. 

The World Health Organization is “getting tough” on the rapidly spreading coronavirus, labeling the pandemic-to-be a “global health emergency” and even producing a nifty 23-page “strategic preparedness and response plan.” But all of the white papers and photo ops in the world cannot make up for the WHO’s sheer ineptitude in responding to the coronavirus.

Despite being “asked” to contribute half a billion dollars each year to the global bureaucracy, U.S. taxpayers have watched as the WHO kowtows to China amid the authoritarian regime’s missteps in containing the coronavirus. The American people, and the entire world, deserve better than a corrupt cabal of bureaucrats fiddling while the world burns (or coughs).

Practically overnight, the Chinese city of Wuhan went from obscurity to ground zero of an international effort to contain the coronavirus. As the first responder, it was up to the Chinese government to acknowledge the problem and craft a comprehensive response that would keep the virus from leaving central China. They did no such thing, instead resorting to cover-ups and jailing brave doctors and patients who tried to sound the alarm about the deadly disease.

One of the first physicians to warn the world about coronavirus was late Chinese ophthalmologist Li Wenliang, who told his medical colleagues in December about cases that seemed suspiciously similar to the 2002 SARS outbreak. Instead of heeding the doctor’s warning, the Chinese government hauled Wenliang and his “conspirators” before the secret police and forced them to confess to and renounce their “rumormongering.”

The cover-up extended to the local level, where according to the Financial Times, “authorities had been informed about the virus spreading in their midst but issued orders to suppress the news. In effect, they engineered a cover-up that played down the seriousness of the outbreak, according to officials and medical professionals.”

The WHO could have tried to hold China accountable for their bungled response, but instead, the organization’s director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, decided to play footsie with the despotic regime. Ghebreyesus offered sycophantic praise for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “political commitment” and “political leadership” in dealing with coronavirus cases.

As the WHO coddled China, Xi waited two weeks to greenlight an international advance team put together by the WHO to investigate the outbreak. U.S. journalists were understandably critical of China’s lackluster response, fielding tough questions for Dr. Ghebreyesus. But the WHO’s director-general carried on praising the “People’s Republic,” extolling, “the extraordinary measures it has taken to contain the outbreak despite the severe social and economic impact that is having on China.”

This effusive praise puts the WHO in an impossible position as the virus worsens and Chinese policies crumble under their own weight. Xi refuses to ease a citywide quarantine of Wuhan, clawing back an edict allowing healthy visitors to Wuhan to leave the city. By all accounts, the weeks-old quarantine of 11 million Chinese citizens has been an abject failure, exposingcountless healthy residents and visitors to a disease that has taken more than 3,000 lives worldwide.

Hard-earned U.S. taxpayer dollars are flowing to WHO, a paper tiger that unblinkingly praises China’s failed response to the coronavirus. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg for an organization that spends $200 million per year for travel and luxurious hotels — more than the combined budget for tuberculosis, AIDS, and malaria combined.

The WHO was roundly criticized for its inept handling of the 2014 Ebola outbreak, waiting more than five months to declare the illness’s spread a “public health emergency.” The WHO’s Global Alert and Response Network sent a team of experts to coordinate the response to the Ebola outbreak but withdrew them quickly, even as viral transmission continued.

Clearly, the WHO has not learned the lesson that dawdling and half-measures won’t do any good in countering deadly diseases. Unless the global bureaucracy picks up the pace and holds dictators accountable for covering up coronavirus cases, the disease will continue to spread on taxpayers’ dime. A strong WHO would quit heaping praise on strongmen and actually get tough to halt the spread of the coronavirus.