The World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) chief lamented Monday “the world should have listened” when first alerted by the U.N. subsidiary agency to the dangers posed by the deadly Chinese coronavirus.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus scolded countries which did not immediately heed the W.H.O.’s advice as far back as January, alleging those that listened were now coping better with the contagion.
“On January 30 we declared the highest level of global emergency on Covid-19 […] During that time, as you may remember, there were only 82 cases outside China. No cases in Latin America or Africa, only 10 cases in Europe. No cases in the rest of the world. So the world should have listened to the W.H.O. then carefully,” Tedros claimed during W.H.O.’s latest press briefing in Geneva.
“We advised the whole world to implement a comprehensive public health approach – find, test, contact tracing and so on,” he continued.
“The countries who followed that are in a better position than others.”
The lamentation by Tedros would appear to defy the evidence as to the quality of that advice, as Breitbart News has reported.
As far back as January 14, the day before the first case to reach the United States reportedly flew from Wuhan to Seattle, Washington, the W.H.O. denied the disease was spreading through human-to-human transmission.
“Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel [coronavirus] identified in [Wuhan],” the W.H.O. wrote on Twitter.
Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan, #China🇳. pic.twitter.com/Fnl5P877VG
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 14, 2020
On February 4, the U.N. body cast doubt on assertions that asymptomatic persons infected by coronavirus could transmit the disease.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) February 5, 2020
Although coronavirus had been traced to an animal market in Wuhan by late January, the W.H.O. claimed in early February that it did not know the source of the outbreak.
“But there is still a lot we don’t know.
We don’t know the source of the #2019nCoV outbreak, we don’t know what its natural reservoir is and we don’t properly understand its transmissibility or severity.
To defeat this outbreak, we need answers to all those questions”-@DrTedros
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) February 6, 2020
As of February 11, the W.H.O. was still doubting the virus even originated from animals in China.
The route of transmission of 2019-nCoV to humans at the start of this event remains unclear.
The current most likely hypothesis is that an intermediary host animal has played a role in the transmission.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) February 11, 2020
As to the claim by Tedros, “countries who followed that [advice] are in a better position than others,” Australia and New Zealand both controlled the virus spread by directly defying W.H.O. advice.
On February 4, the W.H.O. advised against trade and travel restrictions against China, saying such measures could cause “fear and stigma”.
While people were right to be concerned, there was “no reason for panic and fear”, Tedros said.
Just days earlier Australia’s national carrier Qantas announced it would suspend flights to mainland China until further notice.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also said Australia had upgraded its travel advice to include all of mainland China to level four — “do not travel” in direct defiance of W.H.O.
Australia then initiated a strict isolation policy for anyone arriving in the country, mandating 14 days of lockdown for each and every arrival including those Australians returning from overseas.
Since that time both New Zealand and Australia have worked together to fight the spread of the disease and are now in the process of inching back social distancing restrictions.
Australia alone reported just 12 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday and has reduced the rate of infection from above 25 per cent in late March to less than 0.5 per cent over the past week.
Sweden is another country that defied W.H.O. advice and took its own path of keeping the country open.
As Breitbart News reported, its capital Stockholm could reach “herd immunity” within weeks as a result, the country’s chief epidemiologist said last week.
“In major parts of Sweden, around Stockholm, we have reached a plateau (in new cases), and we’re already seeing the effect of herd immunity, and in a few weeks’ time, we’ll see even more of the effects of that. And in the rest of the country, the situation is stable,” Dr. Anders Tegnell, the chief epidemiologist at Sweden’s Public Health Agency, told CNBC.