This week, Taiwan publicly released an email they sent to the World Health Organization in December of last year, asking about the mysterious illness spreading throughout Wuhan, China. Critics note that the contents of the email strongly suggest that WHO officials should have looked more deeply into what would soon become a global pandemic instead of simply taking for granted that the Chinese CDC would release relevant and truthful information about the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Taiwan leaders are accusing the World Health Organization of deliberately downplaying the severity of the disease in the early weeks out of some kind of suspicious loyalty to the Chinese Community Party. They say that public health officials at the organization should have taken their warnings seriously in December when they raised the alarm about at least seven cases of atypical pneumonia in Wuhan.
In the email, Taiwan noted that Chinese health officials were saying the following about the disease: “The cases were believed not SARS; however samples are still under examination, and cases have been isolated for treatment.”
Taiwan sent a request for clarity to WHO on December 31: “I would greatly appreciate it if you have relevant information to share with us.”
In a press release, WHO officials said that Taiwan’s accusation is false, and they insisted that government leaders in the independent island nation never alerted them to the possibility of person-to-person transmission. Of course, that is blatantly false, seeing as how Taiwan’s CDC specifically brought up warnings of an “atypical pneumonia,” which should come across as synonymous with SARS to any WHO official worth his or her salt.
As Taiwan put it: “Public health professionals could discern from this wording that there was a real possibility of human-to-human transmission of the disease. However, because at the time there were as yet no cases of the disease in Taiwan, we could not state directly and conclusively that there had been human-to-human transmission.”
WHO’s denials miss the fact that Taiwan was writing to them, not to share information but to request it. They wanted to get prepared, and they knew they couldn’t necessarily trust what they were hearing from Chinese officials. Unfortunately, they were to learn too late that they couldn’t trust what was coming out of WHO, either. After all, this is an organization that was still telling the public as of mid-January that “there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission.”
Thanks for the heads-up, WHO. Taiwan appreciates it, and so do we all.
None of us moreso than China.