Donald Trump has slammed the World Health Organization’s failures on the coronavirus. In a tweet, the U.S. president scolded the Organization for being overly “China-centric” in its response to the Covid-19 outbreak. He even threatened to reduce its funding.
At a time when the world is confronting a major global pandemic, undermining the WHO may not be the safest move. Likewise, Donald Trump has his own coronavirus failures to consider.
Still, it’s undeniable that the World Health Organization has failed on the coronavirus. It played down the seriousness of the outbreak. It falsely claimed that the coronavirus isn’t capable of human-to-human transmission. And it was extraordinarily slow to declare a pandemic.
So once this pandemic has ended, the World Health Organization’s role in the world needs to be reassessed. It can’t continue putting our lives at risk and ignoring entire nations, just to pander to China.
Yesterday, Trump did what he does best. He posted a tweet criticizing someone else, so as to distract criticism away from himself.
Yes, scores of people piled into Trump in response. Some pointed out that Trump had been fully briefed on coronavirus as early as January, but did nothing until March.
Nonetheless, as culpable as Donald Trump is himself in the weak effort to contain the pandemic, he’s largely right about the World Health Organization. It has failed in its response to the coronavirus. And it has also shown an unfortunate bias towards China.
On January 22, WHO refrained from declaring the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, a public health emergency of international concern.
Fair enough, you might think if there wasn’t sufficient evidence at this stage. But the World Health Organization had, under Chinese pressure, prevented Taiwanese representatives from attending the meeting that ended with no declaration. Taiwan had declared its first coronavirus case on January 21. Its attendance may, therefore, have resulted in a quicker and more serious international response to the coronavirus.
A week before the meeting, the organization tweeted that there was no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus. Again, lulling the world into a false sense of security, based on an over-reliance on info from the Chinese government.
And even when it admitted that there was the human-to-human transmission, the WHO still played things down.
Eventually, on January 30, the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency of international concern . But this didn’t save it from further failures.
Most notably, it relented from declaring the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic throughout February. Even though it was perfectly clear just how dangerous and contagious it was. And even though, on February 26, the World Health Organization itself acknowledged that more new cases were being confirmed outside China than within.
The WHO didn’t declare the coronavirus outbreak to be a pandemic until March 12 . By which time many countries had missed the “window of opportunity ” to act.
And as Donald Trump points out in his tweet, the World Health Organization also advised against travel bans , doing so on February 3. But according to probability researcher and Black Swan author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, he sent a memo to the White House on January 26, suggesting that such advice was highly naive.
So yes, the World Health Organization has racked up an extensive catalog of errors during the coronavirus outbreak.
And given that global health experts accused it of “egregious failure” on the Ebola outbreak of 2014, such errors wouldn’t be the first. In other words, Trump is right: we need to subject the World Health Organization to enormous scrutiny once this is all over.