Taiwan says WHO ignored December warning on Coronavirus’s person-to-person transmission

The WHO has been charged with praising China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic despite accusations of an initial cover up, which included threatening whistleblowers with arrest on account of talking about the pandemic that has since then infected around 250,000 people and killed at least 10,000.
China’s health ministry confirmed human-to-human transmission of Covid-19 on January 20. (Photo by Samir Jana / Hindustan Times)
China’s health ministry confirmed human-to-human transmission of Covid-19 on January 20. (Photo by Samir Jana / Hindustan Times)
Updated on Mar 21, 2020 05:41 AM IST
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New Delhi, Hindustan Times | By

Taiwan has said the World Health Organization (WHO) ignored an alert it shared with the international health agency in December about person-to-person transmission of the new virus in China, which indicates that the infection is highly contagious, and slowed the global response to the pandemic, according to Financial Times.

The WHO has been charged with praising China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic despite accusations of an initial cover up, which included threatening whistleblowers with arrest on account of talking about the pandemic that has since then infected around 250,000 people and killed at least 10,000.

According to FT, Taiwan vice-president Chen Chien-jen said its doctors had heard from mainland colleagues about medical staff getting ill, which is a sign of human-to-human transmission, and Taipei officials reported this on December 31 to both China and International Health Regulations (IHR), a WHO framework for exchange of epidemic prevention and response data between 196 countries.

The alert was ignored. China’s health ministry confirmed human-to-human transmission of Covid-19 on January 20.

“While the IHR’s internal website provides a platform for all countries to share information on the epidemic and their response, none of the information shared by our country’s [Centers for Disease Control] is being put up there,” Chen Chien-jen, vice-president of Taiwan, told FT. Taiwan is not a part of the WHO because China claims it as part of its territory and does not want it treated as an independent state.

As late as January 14, just two weeks before WHO declared Covid-19 a global health emergency, the global health agency tweeted that “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.”

Since then, the novel coronavirus has been named Covid-19.

The first case of someone in China suffering from Covid-19, the disease caused by the Sars-Cov2, can be traced back to November 17, according to government data seen by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post. Chinese authorities have identified at least 266 people who were infected last year, all of whom came under medical surveillance at some point, it said.

HT reached out to the spokesperson of the embassy of China in New Delhi, who said, “Taiwan is a part of China. There is no Vice President there.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sanchita is the health & science editor of the Hindustan Times. She has been reporting and writing on public health policy, health and nutrition for close to two decades. She is an International Reporting Project fellow from Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and was part of the expert group that drafted the Press Council of India’s media guidelines on health reporting, including reporting on people living with HIV.

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