INTERNATIONAL

Virus alert given by our office, not China: WHO

The World Health Organization has updated its account of the early stages of the COVID crisis to say it was alerted by its own office in China, and not by China itself, to the first pneumonia cases in Wuhan.

The UN health body has been accused by U.S. President Donald Trump of failing to provide the information needed to stem the pandemic and of being complacent towards Beijing, charges it denies.

Initial timeline

On April 9, WHO published an initial timeline of its communications. In that chronology, WHO had said only that the Wuhan municipal health commission in the province of Hubei had on December 31 reported cases of pneumonia.

The UN health agency did not however specify who had notified it. WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference on April 20 that the first report had come from China, without specifying whether the report had been sent by Chinese authorities or another source.

But a new chronology, published this week by the Geneva-based institution, offers a more detailed version of events.

It indicates that it was the WHO office in China that on December 31 notified its regional point of contact of a case of “viral pneumonia” after having found a declaration for the media on a Wuhan health commission website on the issue.

The same day, WHO’s epidemic information service picked up another news report transmitted by the international epidemiological surveillance network ProMed about the same group of cases of pneumonia.

After which, WHO asked the Chinese authorities on two occasions, on January 1 and January 2, for information about these cases, which they provided on January 3.

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