If only World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had been as skeptical about China’s claims about COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic, as he is now.
Who knows how many lives could have been saved globally, including in Canada?
Last week Tedros — widely criticized from the start of the pandemic for being too trusting about what China was telling the world about COVID-19 — appeared to have had enough.
He said China’s lack of cooperation with the WHO’s scientific mission to Wuhan in January — a year after the outbreak was first detected there — meant the WHO could not rule out the possibility COVID-19 leaked out of the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
That was surprising because the WHO’s own report of its scientific mission to Wuhan — under the close eye of China’s authorities who denied it access to important raw data — said this was the least likely explanation for how COVID-19 originated.
But Tedros, after reviewing that report, said only further investigation by independent experts returning to China and given full access to scientific data, could rule out the possibility COVID-19 escaped from a lab, which China has always denied.
The larger concern is that finding the original source of the pandemic — initially thought to have been a live animal market in Wuhan, but with evidence now suggesting the outbreak may have started earlier — is crucial to understanding the outbreak and preparing for future ones.
Given China’s obsession with secrecy — at the start of the pandemic it arrested and threatened doctors who were accurately telling the world COVID-19 was spreading by human transmission — we may never find the true origins of the deadly coronavirus.
We do know that during the crucial first weeks of the pandemic, when it might have been possible to contain it within China, its dictators were minimizing the seriousness of the outbreak and insisting there was little or no evidence of human transmission.
That led the WHO to underestimate the threat of COVID-19 early on, which led to the world underestimating it, including Canada.
We all know the terrible result.
So it’s good Tedros is now skeptical about information coming out of China about COVID-19. Except it’s a year too late.