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Head of WHO has a lot to answer for?

Plough Man

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Transcribed from behind DT paywall......................

WHO boss supported by China is now giving the nation too much credit on coronavirus.

If the World Health Organisation?s verdict is to be believed, China?s behaviour in the coronavirus crisis has been exemplary.

Officials who returned from a ?joint mission? to the country in February described how China had ?rolled out perhaps the most ambitious, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history?.

WHO?s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, claimed that China?s lockdown strategy had ?bought time for the world?.

However, concerns are now growing that far from buying time, China has put the world on the back foot by publishing data about the spread of the disease that is at best inconsistent and at worst heavily massaged.

It has also been accused of silencing whistle-blowers, and overlooking early evidence of the infectiousness of the disease.

Chinese authorities have changed the way they count coronavirus cases no less than eight times since the outbreak began, and only this week started counting asymptomatic cases in its official statistics.

When the daily counts started in January, the China?s National Health Commission?s definition of a coronavirus case was much more restrictive than it is now.

Patients only qualified as suspected cases if they displayed all four of a list of specific symptoms - including pneumonia indicated by a chest radiograph ? and had also either travelled or had indirect contact with a Wuhan market within the previous fortnight.

Inevitably, tens of thousands of milder cases of coronavirus slipped through unrecorded.

Even now that the definition has been tightened, senior politicians and US intelligence have expressed concerns that the statistics released by China may be fiction.

Certainly the statistics look out of kilter. China was affected weeks before any other nation, but has only reported around 82,500 cases so far.

By comparison, the US which had its first coronavirus case in mid-January, has reported more than 245,000 ? more than three times China?s figure, according to data collated by Johns Hopkins University in America. The UK, whose population is less than five per cent of China?s ? and which has lagged far behind on testing - has already reported 34,173 cases. This is 41 per cent of China?s total.

A WHO spokesman said: ?WHO?s mandate is to keep all people safe everywhere and this is what our scientists and public health experts are doing. The membership of the UN is decided by the countries. This does not affect WHO?s mandate as an evidence-based organization that safeguards the global public health.?

Allies of Dr Tedros point to the fact that, as the former health minister then foreign minister of Ethiopia, he is naturally given to diplomacy ? and that praising China ensures the nation continues sharing critical information.

However, critics note that China was highly influential in him gaining the position in the first place.

According to reports, Chinese diplomats campaigned hard for him in the 2017 leadership election, using the promise of Beijing?s financial muscle to put pressure on developing countries to do the same ? helping him to stave off competition from Britain?s David Nabarro.

The official toll of the number of cases is not the only point of information that has shaped the way other countries prepared for coronavirus. Chinese authorities also peddled the line that there was no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission - apparently overlooking early signs that patients were catching it from each other.

A paper published in The Lancet and co-authored by doctors who worked at Jin Yin-tan hospital in Wuhan noted that the wife of the very first patient to die of coronavirus also "presented with pneumonia and was hospitalised in the isolation ward?.

The study - Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China - stops short of saying she caught coronavirus from him, but points out that she had ?no known history of exposure to the market?.

The same study also claims that just one of the four earliest known coronavirus patients had links to Huanan Seafood Market - casting doubt on the popular notion advanced in Wuhan that the disease originated in wet markets.

There, a shrimp seller named Wei Guixian, was identified by the Wall Street Journal as one of the very first patients, after she began experiencing symptoms on December 10.

However, experts now believe that the disease began to spread in China much earlier than that. A little-discussed graph in the Lancet paper claims that the first coronavirus patient started feeling the effects of the disease on 1 December ? a week and a half earlier.

Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post claims to have seen confidential government documents that suggest the first confirmed coronavirus patient may have contracted the disease on 17 November. If true, knowing about it early on would have had huge ramifications.

Research by the University of Southampton suggests that 95 per cent of infections could have been avoided if China had acted three weeks earlier.

Professor Larry Gostin, director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center on Public Health Law & Human Rights, told the Telegraph: "It delayed for three to four weeks before reporting a novel virus to the WHO which probably cost hundreds of thousands of lives globally?Its record does not deserve praise."

The first whistle-blower was Ai Fen, a senior doctor at Wuhan Central Hospital, who on 30 December posted information about the new virus on the WeChat social media platform.

Later that day, Dr Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at the same hospital, also posted information on WeChat about the virus he believed to be Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or Sars.

He and Dr Ai were both reprimanded, and Dr Wenliang was instructed by the hospital to write a ?reflection? on the spread of false information.

Within two days, the Wuhan Public Security Bureau had reportedly called another eight doctors in for questioning after they discussed the virus on social media. According to Chinese media, the Hubei Provincial Health Commission ordered laboratories that were testing samples for the new virus to stop doing so, and to destroy any existing samples they had.

John Mackenzie, a member of the World Health Organisation?s emergency committee and emeritus professor at Curtin University in Australia, told the Financial Times in February that some aspects of China?s response was ?reprehensible? and that he believes they tried to ?keep the figures quiet for a while?.

Mr Mackenzie?s misgivings were backed by numerous reports in Chinese media, but Dr Tedros distanced himself from Mr Mackenzie?s critical remarks.

He said that he could not comment whether or not China had hidden the start of the coronavirus outbreak but that if China did conceal the extent of the outbreak ?it really defeats logic? because there would have been a higher number of cases around the world.

The WHO position is in contrast to the organisation?s handling of the 2003 SARS crisis when Gro Harlem Brundtland was director general.

When the WHO declared a global health alert for SARS, there were just over 150 cases worldwide. When Covid-19 was named a public health emergency of international concern, there were nearly 10,000.

Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, and author of a paper on the SARS response, said that the WHO did not use the new range of tools that have since been put at its disposal.

?Very often the WHO seems to be downplaying the Chinese response in the early stage of the crisis?It might be diplomatically unwise to criticise [China] but I do believe the WHO could take a more balanced approach."

This is rejected by the WHO, which says that it co-ordinates the international response to Covid-19 in a ?transparent way?, publishing on its website information that can help countries and individuals respond to the crisis.

?Part of WHO?s mandate is to inform all member states and we do it both through bilateral exchanges and through weekly briefings where all countries are invited. Throughout the outbreak, there have been regular and frequent meetings and discussions between WHO leadership and technical experts from around the world,? a spokesman said.

Indeed, Dr Nabarro ? who fought Dr Tedros to become director general and is now a WHO envoy ? suggested that his former opponent may have got the balance right. ?When this started, we were able to benefit from china making the structure of the virus available in the public domain extremely quickly and we?re grateful for that and we?re grateful for information that has been received about the virus.?

?Let?s do all the post mortems of all governments when we?ve got through this. We will all be accountable and that?s how it should be.?

Professor Gostin, who was Dr Nabarro?s spokesman during the leadership race, was less charitable. ?When we look back and see so much praise going towards China and its system will the message be that civil rights aren't as important as we believe them to be? I believe in telling truth to power.'

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I think that given what we know about the virus, its infection and mortality rates (with all their variations), that it is hard to believe the Chinese account. The first cases started presenting themselves to Chinese hospitals in late November. That is when those doctors (who were initially silenced) started talking about SARS like symptoms in several patients on their whatsapp group.

We now know that an infected person can take as much as two weeks to show symptoms and that some people show little or no symptoms at all. We also know that during this period, those people are infectious and that this virus spreads far more easily than flu.

In early January, China claimed there was no human to human transmission. Now whilst it does take time for science to understand a novel virus, one of the first things that will be looked at, is transmission, both method and rate. So putting all of that together, it makes little sense that either infection rates, or mortality would be so low in China. It also explains perhaps the urgency with which China also entirely locked down entire cities and provinces.

No-one would have expected them to have all the answers, but the world does have a right to expect honesty, given what has followed.

I would also add that I don't think they are the only nation being dishonest about infection and mortality rates either.

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As fascinating as these posts are, would not they be better in lounge section of forum as a general discussion. They are not strictly related to our local area. Can't say backing Trump's attempt to disempower the WHO is equal to a call for donations for our local food bank. Just a thought
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This man, Connor Reed appears to have been infected in Wuhan in November 2019.


The worst aspect of this whole thing is that the first SARS back in 2002-3 was less infectious but it was found to share 99.8% of its DNA in humans with that in Himalayan civet cats and raccoon dogs which were found in the meat markets.

40% of the animal handlers in the markets had antibodies to this virus, 20% of the slaughterers had antibodies and just 1% of the vegetable traders had the antibodies- (go figure as Trump would say!)

NOTHING was done about these markets by the WHO or the Chinese Government (you cannot expect the Chinese scientific community to stick their heads above the parapet given the regime at work)

That SARS virus then mutated 5 times (the DNA has been accurately mapped on both strains of the virus) to give us this SARS of 2019 which is much more infectious, efficient and lethal....thanks China, thanks WHO....

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Not quite true. The Chinese did make the sale of some wild animals illegal after the first SARS outbreak, but clearly that did not go far enough. It is enforcement that is the issue, even with the complete ban on the farming, sale and consumption of wild animals that China is now seeking to impose. This article highlights the challenge articulately.


Also worth pointing out that this is not only an issue in China, but parts of Asia generally. And even in the West, we have our own challenges around intensive animal farming. Swine and avian flu pandemics for example, can emerge anywhere as we all farm these animals intensively. So I would argue that we all need to think about our whole approach to animal consumption over the longer term.

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Surprised that there hasn't been mention of what I thought was an excellent Horizon programme last week, lots of data and debunking some of the myths. https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000h3nm/horizon-2020-coronavirus-special-part-1

A key message was overpopulation and intensive agriculture mean that there is a greater likelihood of such pandemics.

I tried to start a discussion on what the world may look like post covid-19 and will pick up again on this at a later time.

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@ Malumbu,

Not surprised that the Horizon programme didn't generate comment as the BBC documentaries credibility have diminished appreciably as they are over selective with their statistics and "facts" - all designed to support their preconceptions.

The fact remains that much of Chinese "medicine" is based around products derived from wild animals. This ranges from pangolin scales, bats, porcupines, rhino horn to whatever else is rare. These products are central to the mystique surrounding their "medicine"..

Couple this with the desire for freshly killed game meet in a country which has not enjoyed the benefits of refrigeration for the masses until very recent years.

Both these considerations combine to provide a fertile breeding ground for the transfer of viruses from animals to humans.

I have travelled extensively in China and have been horrified at the conditions in markets where wild mammals, birds and reptiles are caged in immediate proximity to where raw meat and other edibles are being prepared for sale.

"Shocking" is insufficient to described the conditions in these markets.

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Have you seen the programme? If not it would be worth doing so and sharing views. It appeared to be factual, non-sensational, using experts including mathematicians, and some interesting looks at the data and particularly valuable debunking some of the myths.
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Blah Blah Wrote:


> Not quite true. The Chinese did make the sale of

> some wild animals illegal after the first SARS

> outbreak, but clearly that did not go far enough.

> It is enforcement that is the issue, even with the

> complete ban on the farming, sale and consumption

> of wild animals that China is now seeking to

> impose. This article highlights the challenge

> articulately.


> https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/05/asia/china-coro

> navirus-wildlife-consumption-ban-intl-hnk/index.ht

> ml


> Also worth pointing out that this is not only an

> issue in China, but parts of Asia generally. And

> even in the West, we have our own challenges

> around intensive animal farming. Swine and avian

> flu pandemics for example, can emerge anywhere as

> we all farm these animals intensively. So I would

> argue that we all need to think about our whole

> approach to animal consumption over the longer

> term.

Making something illegal does NOT stop it. This was 6 days ago https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-08/wuhan-is-returning-to-life-so-are-its-disputed-wet-markets

They have put a sign up!!!!

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I doubt things will change I wish it would animal charity have been going on for years about it the dogs and cats crushed into cages as well and the ivory still on sale

If people would stop wanting cheap clothing and we stopped using China as the biggest manufacturing country they might stop this barbaric behaviour there's plenty of other countries that will do our manufacturing I've read in the time's that some countries are going to do this but also read that China will become even more powerful

So if we stopped cheap goods coming from therenot only would we help the planet but also the wild life and endangered wildlife

Whatever you think of president Trump he said China is not going to dump there cheap steel and coal on American no more when he came into power and is the only one who will stand up to the all

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I know they have and no cheap export have nothing to do with the virus' but if we take it away from them until they stop all these markets it might do something that's the point I was making consider most of the pandemic have started there surely something can be done
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We fed cows their own brains and didn't think it was a problem

That was a bullet missed as it was in the food chain but the prions didn't cause mass disease.

Oh - and because of that most countries will not accept blood from a British person my age and all plasma is imported in the UK - so most scientists assume those prions are still around..

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I feel the pandemic could have been averted and things would have turned out differently if Britain's candidate (in 2017) for the vacant position as head of the WHO had been selected. However Chinese diplomats campaigned hard for Tedros Ghebreyesusg. China used its financial muscle to put pressure on developing countries to to vote for


That's why Ghebreyesus was always gushing in his praise for what China was doing about managing the virus when he should have hit the panic button. He delayed again and again before declaring a pandemic.

One result was that Britain could not release its strategic reserves of PPE equipment unless the WHO declared a pandemic. It also mean that travel in and out of china was not stopped until in spreads worldwide.

He also ignored the alert given by Dr Li Wenliang who identified the virus in early January. Dr Wenliang died shortly after but not before he was censored and vilified by the Chinese authorities.

If Ghebreyesus had acted responsibly then the outcome might have been similar to the SARS virus ie a rapid response that contained it before it became a world wide pandemic.

He has a much to answer for. Not least of which is the fact that on 21 October 2017, Ghebreyesus appointed former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe as a WHO Goodwill Ambassador to help promote the fight against non-communicable diseases. The appointment address praised Mugabe for his commitment to public health in Zimbabwe.

It's not only Ghebreyesus, whole WHO stinks. According to The Associated Press, the WHO routinely spends about $200 million a year on travel expenses, more than it spends to tackle mental health problems, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria combined. In 2016, Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO from November 2006 to June 2017,stayed in a $1000-per-night hotel room while visiting West Africa.

'Nuff said!

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Trump has just confirmed that the USA will stop contributions to the WHO.

Heaven forbid we should be guided by Trump on most things however it would make sense for the UK to do likewise in this case and put our money into the NHS or a facility to make the UK self sufficient in PPE and/or to establish a full scale vaccine manufacturing facility.

A slice from our $14 billion overseas aid budget would be money well spent considering much of it is wasted on a regular basis anyway.

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Interesting post Plough Man. It does have an air of cronyism about it. It would also explain why the WHO were relaying Chinese press statements early on that were subsequently found to be wrong, instead of seeking corroboration. The Chinese declaration that human to human transmission was not happening being a case in point. All of this needs to be fully investigated once this is all over.

Edited to say this was in response to the previous post.

On WHO funding, that might also be something that needs to be looked at too, but I would argue that for now, all the focus should be on dealing with the pandemic. It is not helpful to be taking any action against the WHO right now. Worth also suggesting that Trump's action is with half an eye on the election later this year. He is deflecting blame for his slow response and dismissal of the virus in February now that the death rate is shooting up. And there are still many states in the US not operating lock downs yet, with all of them having reported at least one death from the virus. So things are probably going to get much worse for the US.

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And Trump just muddies the water.

At the end of January he praised the Chinese response: "China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!"

The bigger picture is how do you get a country and people set in their ways, in a single party state, that is likely to be the biggest economy in the world in future years? Perhaps that battle was lost in 1972 when Nixon won the PR campaign but China was playing the long game and this opened the door to regional domination.

There is also a question of 'our divine right' over other species, whether to domesticate/farm them, hunt them for sport, destroy their habitats through farming, fishing. pollution and climate change, whilst we overpopulate the planet. I'd love this to be something that we could do more about after the crisis has ended. Sorry gone a bit off topic but missing some of the more intellectual discussions.

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We are all agreed on Trump being a complete buffoon but there is clear justification to suspending contributions to the WHO. It is wasteful and corrupt.

The first point I was making is that charity should begin at home. The NHS needs more funding plus we need to establish a strategic reserve of medical necessities. But equally we need to establish a vaccine production facility that is flexible and up to scale.

The second is that a large portion of our foreign aid budget is wasted. A simple search on the subject comes up with multiple examples...


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A lot of thinking went into regional and national planning after the fuel protests in 2000 when we got severely exposed and Britain almost came to a standstill. This included improved capability to respond, ie resources. Countries like the US have strategic stocks, due to their size, population and the relatively regular occurrence of regional disasters (storms, floods, other extreme weather). The UK is blessed in our temperate climate and we don't have the same extremes. Our capability included such gems as mass fatality plans. https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/tna/20141207004030/https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/archives/london-prepared-London-Mass-Fatality-Plan-v4.pdf Not sure what happened to much of this after the winding down of the government offices for the regions.

Government also publishes a National Risk Register to help inform planning, testing and capability building. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/61934/national_risk_register.pdf This is from 2008 and not sure why I can't find more recent versions.

Extracting from this: Early recognition of a new infection is crucial and international collaboration and the deployment of surveillance and monitoring systems is key for tackling new and emerging diseases

Planning and capability depend on both the likelihood and severity of an emergency - we generally take extreme winter weather on the chin and therefore do not have lots of snow moving equipment. Flooding caught us short therefore we invested in high volume pumps. Why we didn't invest in protective clothing. equipment and ventilators is one for the future.

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We are all veggies in our household seenbeen, so think the whole wet market with open slaughter principle to be completely barbaric. That it also breaks every known parameter around bacterial and viral contamination is something every person, carnivore or veggie should be in agreement on. There are safe methods for meat production, and there are super healthy methods too through the free range option. There is NO excuse for anyone to be buying and eating dangerous meat.

A lot of this is down to culture, way of life, over education and sanitation. But how many governments around the world are really reduced to feeding their nations with dangerous methods of food distribution? None is the answer. Much of the dangerous meat trade is illegal. So taking on the illegal meat trade is where the focus needs to be right now.

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