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The Lancet denies publishing December report on coronavirus in Wuhan that Trump claims WHO ignored

Trump's letter to WHO alleged that the organization had 'consistently ignored credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019 or even earlier including reports from the Lancet medical journal'
UPDATED MAY 20, 2020
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

A prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, has dismissed claims by President Donald Trump that the World Health Organization (WHO) had ignored early warnings on the novel coronavirus in a study published in December 2019 in the journal among other reports.

In a May 18 letter addressed to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Trump said that an investigation by his administration has revealed that the WHO "consistently ignored credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019, or even earlier, including reports from The Lancet medical journal." The letter — screenshots of which were posted on Trump's official Twitter account — also alleged that the WHO has failed to independently investigate credible reports that "conflicted directly with the Chinese government's official accounts, even those that came from sources within itself."

However, the Lancet subsequently issued a statement on its official twitter account, which said that Trump's statement is factually incorrect. "The Lancet published no report in December 2019, referring to a virus or outbreak in Wuhan or anywhere else in China. The allegations leveled against WHO in President Trump's letter are serious and damaging to efforts to strengthen international cooperation to control this pandemic,” says the statement issued on May 19.

The journal said that the first report published by it on the new coronavirus was on January 24, 2020, where experts described the first 41 patients from Wuhan with Covid-19. "The scientists and physicians who led this study were all from Chinese institutions. They worked with us to quickly make information about this new epidemic outbreak and the disease it caused fully and freely available to an international audience," it notes.

Another report was also published in The Lancet on January 24, describing the first scientific evidence confirming person-to-person transmission of the new coronavirus. This report included scientists and physicians from Hong Kong and China.

The Lancet published the first report on the new coronavirus January 24, 2020, where experts described the first 41 patients from Wuhan with Covid-19 (Getty Images)

Richard Horton, the editor-in-chief of the Lancet, also tweeted, "Dear President Trump - You cite The Lancet in your attack on WHO. Please let me correct the record. The Lancet did not publish any report in early December 2019, about a virus spreading in Wuhan. The first reports we published were from Chinese scientists on January 24, 2020.”

Trump has repeatedly questioned the WHO's performance during the Covid-19 pandemic. Trump halted the US contributions to the WHO last month, claiming that the organization had mishandled the coronavirus outbreak as it emerged in China. Trump's recent letter also makes multiple accusations against the WHO, and threatens that the US would permanently end all funding to the organization, and reconsider its membership in the organization if the WHO failed to make "substantive improvements within the next 30 days."

With the WHO promising that an independent review of the global coronavirus response would begin as soon as possible, The Lancet statement cautioned that it is essential that any review of the global response is based on a "factually accurate account of what took place in December and January."

The Lancet also published an editorial recently, which strongly condemns the Trump administration's "inconsistent and incoherent" response to Covid-19 and for chipping away at the US Centers for Disease Control and Preventions or CDC's capacity to combat infectious diseases. "The Trump administration’s further erosion of the CDC will harm global cooperation in science and public health, as it is trying to do by defunding WHO."

"A strong CDC is needed to respond to public health threats, both domestic and international, and to help prevent the next inevitable pandemic. Americans must put a president in the White House come January 2021, who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics," says the editorial.