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CIA believes China tried to stop WHO from raising coronavirus alert in January while stockpiling medical supplies

This is the second such revelation in weeks after German intelligence accused Chinese President Xi Jinping of personally pressuring WHO
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Xi Jinping (Getty Images)
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Xi Jinping (Getty Images)

China was set to face more backlash from the US and the rest of the world as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) suspects that the Asian power put pressure on the World Health Organization (WHO) to delay public warnings about the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak in the early stage, a new report has revealed.

China has earlier been accused of misleading the world about the virus that has affected more than four million people worldwide and President Donald Trump has even gone to the extent of saying that he has seen evidence that it originated from a lab in Wuhan -- a theory that has found no solid backing so far.

In an exclusive report, Newsweek cited the CIA believing that Beijing tried to stop WHO from alerting the world about the outbreak in January when it was reportedly stockpiling medical supplies from around the world to fight the menace. The pandemic hit China badly first but soon spread like a wildfire to engulf the West. The US is the most affected country now with more than 1.3 million affected and over 82,000 dead.

Newsweek cited a CIA report, the content of which was confirmed to the news outlet by two American intelligence officials, saying China went on to threaten WHO saying it would stop cooperating with the international health agency’s coronavirus probe if it announced a global health emergency. WHO eventually declared Covid-19 a pandemic but that was around mid March and the world was left unprepared to tackle the tragedy.

A number of western nations including the UK, Italy, Spain, France and others have been badly hit by the pandemic. 

President Donald Trump has attacked both China and WHO repeatedly over their handling of the coronavirus pandemic (Getty Images)

The CIA report is a second such report revealed by western intelligence about China’s pressure tactics against WHO and it is likely to worsen an already sour relation between China and the West, especially the US. The pandemic has not only affected and killed people but also paralyzed the world economy. In the poll-bound US, several million people have lost their livelihoods leaving Trump, who is seeking a re-election in November, hapless. 

German intelligence document alleged Xi pressured WHO leadership

The first report, a German intelligence document published by Der Spiegel last week, accused Chinese President Xi Jinping of personally pressuring WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on January 21. While the international health agency refused to agree that Xi intervened personally, it did not address specifically the question of whether the Chinese officials made any effort to delay or change the declaration of an international public health emergency.

“We don't comment on specific discussions with member states but we can say that at all times during the pandemic WHO has acted in accordance with its mandate as an evidence-based technical organization focusing on protecting all people, everywhere,” Newsweek quoted WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier as saying.

“WHO bases its recommendations on science, public health best practices, evidence, data, and the advice of independent experts. Dr Tedros did not communicate with President Xi on Jan 20, 21 or 22. Dr Tedros and his senior team met with President Xi in Beijing on Jan. 28. The issue of PHEIC (public health emergency of international concern) did not come up in that meeting,” he added. 

The American intelligence officials who spoke to Newsweek though did not confirm whether Xi played a role in putting pressure on WHO. The health body announced coronavirus a PHEIC on January 30 and backed China’s handling of the crisis. “Let me be clear: This declaration is not a vote of no confidence in China. On the contrary, WHO continues to have confidence in China's capacity to control the outbreak,” Ghebreyesus had  said at the time.
Trump was aghast with the WHO accusing it of favoring China and ignoring Washington’s initial moves to contain the virus. He even went to the extent of freezing American funds for the health agency in April. China, on the other hand, increased its monetary support for the body.