China & WHO: Imputability for the Pandemic

The present article is written by Meenakshi Sharma during her internship at LeDroit India, discussing about China’s responsibility and its response to the pandemic.

China’s Responsibility and its response to the Pandemic:

The first case of COVID-19 could be traced back to 17-Nov-2019, where a 55-year-old individual from Hubei province in China may have been the first person to have contracted COVID-19. However, as per the data in WHO’s official website, China only alerted WHO about “Cluster of pneumonia” on 31-Dec-2019[1]. Nevertheless, millions of people had already traveled in and out of Wuhan and Hubei province, causing the virus to spread throughout the world. The emergence of infectious diseases from china is not new for the world; there was a similar outbreak of SARS in early 2002, which is believed to have originated from China’s wet markets, which is notoriously famous for poorly managed meat markets, where exotic and wild animals are often sold and slaughtered, raise the risk of zoonic viruses jumping to human[2].

The strategic neglect of Chinese leaders helped make the coronavirus pandemic possible and bring the global economy on the verge of collapse, filling-up hospitals and cemeteries around the world. It is widely recognized that the unregulated sale of seafood and wild animal meat in open wet markets – such as the Wuhan Wet Market[3] – was the original cause of human infection with the new Coronavirus. As suggested by specific scientific reports and independent teams in pre-print studies, pangolin could be an intermediate host” of the virus which likely originated in bats in the region[4]

To compound the crisis, Chinese leadership suppressed evidence of the virus, allowed the continuation of New Year celebrations, and restricted travel from Wuhan only months after the outbreak began. The death of Dr. Li Wenliang, who raised early warnings about “Influx of patients with Pneumonia like symptoms” with his colleagues, was quickly detained and silenced by Chinese authorities, Dr. Li later died of Coronavirus, and this reminds the world of a world leader aspiring to be and how the Chinese Communist Party will choose secret and self-interest over saving lives.[5]

On December 27, 2019 citing unpublished documents of the Chinese government, there were 181 cases in total. The well-known virologist Dr. Zhang was the first to sound the alarm. Chinese authorities notified the World Health Organization and issued a low-key announcement, reporting 27 influenza-type infections, but there was no clear information about human transmission. It was recommended that anyone who has a persistent fever seek timely medical help.

China provided the COVID-19 gene sequence to the World Health Organization on January 10, but there was no comprehensive data on its transmission mode. On January 14, 2020 a WHO official said that interpersonal communication i.e., the human transmission, was “limited,” later overturned.

WHO is the keeper of global knowledge and public health and has a presence in 147 countries and has existed for seven long decades. Nevertheless, it failed in achieving its objectives as in this time of Pandemic by downplaying the threat and believing in China’s theory.

The questions which the world should ask from WHO are:

  1. Why did ‘WHO’ downplay human to human transmission?

The Coronavirus is not new, but the transmission to humans is, which is the primary concern. On January 14, the WHO states that the preliminary investigations conducted by Chinese authorities had found no clear evidence of human to human transmission of novel Coronavirus, when in fact, 41 patients had been admitted to the hospital in Wuhan just 12 days back form this statement. Of those patients, 14 of them had no direct exposure to the Wuhan Seafood market, which is 44% of the total case.  Then if this is not human to human transmission, then what it is. Moreover, the day before WHO rejected human to human transmission, Thailand reported its first imported coronavirus case on January 1, 2020; Taiwan also informed them about such transmission, yet which remained in a denial mode.

2. Why did the ‘WHO’ refuse to brand the outbreak a ‘pandemic’?

By January 15, Corona Virus was breaching borders, but the WHO did not declare a global emergency that’s fine, but even after another month and a half went by and at that time, the trickle of cases turned into a flood by the end of Feb, but still WHO did not call it a pandemic, which stated that term pandemic will not be appropriate yet, it is on March 11 when it was declared a pandemic, that is after 57 days when the first case was reported outside China and by that time 4000 people had already died, which is more than five times of the overall death toll of the SARS Virus, and 1,18,000 people had been infected.

Now the question arises that why this declaration is necessary globally? First, understand What Pandemic is, let us go by WHO’s definition published on February 24, 2010, it says that Pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease, and Coronavirus has spread to 80 countries on six continents by Feb end, yet it did not fit WHO’s definition of Pandemic. Secondly, this declaration is necessary worldwide because it helps the government and health system prepare for community transmission.

Additional factors that helped the spread of the virus:

Risky Bat Research

Scientist and doctors in the Wuhan Institute of virology were studying deadly bat derived viruses. It is stated in the dossier that the genetic sequence of the COVID-19 matches 96% with the bat samples found in the Wuhan Lab, which means this virus was present in the lab.

This report talks about Dr. Chi, who was worried about this virus in their lab, and at present, she has disappeared.

Creating Deadly Viruses

The dossier talks about work done by Wuhan-based scientists as quoted “synthesize SARS-like coronavirus,” which included altering, changing the parts of the virus, in order to see whether it could be transmitted from bats to other species.

Cover up of Early Samples

It talks about the suppression of evidence and the destruction of virus samples at genomics labs. It raises a question about why wildlife markets were bleached. It raises the question about some doctors; it raises why live virus samples from the first cases have not been shared with the world and why research on this subject has to undergo a preliminary review by the Ministry of Science in China.

Destruction of Evidence

It States that China censored news of the virus on search engines. It states that China has deleted Coronavirus related terms from social media like Wuhan Seafood Market, Wuhan Unknown Pneumonia, and any variation of terms SARS. Chinese Authorities from December 31 censored this all. This raises why Chinese Authorities denied human transmission until Jan 2020, when there was evidence of human to human transmission in early Dec 2019.

Conclusion

In a world where authoritarian countries often go unpunished, it is easy to forget that the rules-based international order is obligatory for everyone. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is no exception. International law (in the form of treaties, conventions, and charters) is obligated to China just as it is to Western democracies.

The peak of the Coronavirus is increasing day by day, and without vaccination, it can be said that the Pandemic is not soon to be over; preferably, the worst has to have come. In the present scenario, as of Oct 1, 2020, the total number of cases in India has reached 6,312,534.

While the origin of this virus remains uncertain as of now, China and WHO should be ready to answer lots of questions that will be coming their way soon and the answer to which the world needs to know.


[1] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/world-news/first-covid-19-case-can-be-traced-back-to-november-2017-in-chinas-hubei-province-report/articleshow/74608199.cms.

[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1201971214014970

[3] https://www.livescience.com/first-case-coronavirus-found.html

[4] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1201971214014970,

[5] https://www. theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/feb/26/the-reaction-to-the-outbreak-has-revealed-the-unreceonstructed- despotism-of-the-Chinese-state

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