Americans should be enormously grateful that our President Donald Trump ignored assurances by the U.N.'s World Health Organization (WHO) that the coronavirus was really no big deal.
That was after January 14 when WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted, "Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission." His agency took another week to reverse that misinformation.
Taiwanese officials had previously alerted WHO on December 31 that they had seen evidence that the virus could be transmitted human-to-human. Bowing to Beijing influence, and lacking WHO membership standing, the agency chose not to heed the warning
On January 22-23, a WHO emergency committee debated whether to declare COVID-19 a "public health emergency of international concern." Yet by that time, the virus had already spread to several countries. A University of Southampton study concluded that the number of coronavirus cases could have been reduced by 95% had China moved to contain the virus three weeks sooner.
Ghebreyesus had stated that "WHO doesn't recommend limiting trade and movement."
Fortunately disputing that bad advice, Trump shut down flights from China the very next day. That swift and decisive action saved tens of thousands — perhaps millions — of American lives. Ghebreyesus had warned such a ban would increase "fear and stigma, with little public health benefit."
The first U.S. COVID-19 case was detected four days after the China closure on February 4.
Beijing officials were well aware of the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan sometime in the autumn, possibly as early as November. The deadly contagion had then rapidly accelerated in December.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Chinese labs had sequenced the virus genome by the end of December, but were ordered by Chinese officials to halt tests, destroy samples and not publish their findings.
According to Radio Free Asia, Wuhan doctor Ai Fen, head of emergency at Wuhan Central Hospital who expressed early concerns about the coronavirus to the media, has disappeared and is believed detained by Chinese authorities. Fen had brought several coronavirus cases to the attention of some of her colleagues, eight of whom were called in by police.
On December 30, Dr. Li Wenliange, one of Dr. Fen's confidants who had warned fellow med school grads to wear protective clothing, was accused of lies that "severely disturbed the social order." Dr. Wenliange, an ophthalmologist, later died of the virus.
Although China has confirmed a total of 81,554 infections and 3,312 deaths, the U.S. intelligence community has reportedly concluded that Beijing has deliberately provided incomplete public numbers.
Upon returning from meetings in China on January 30, WHO Director-General Ghebreyesus reported: "The Chinese government is to be congratulated for the extraordinary measures it has taken. … I left in absolutely no doubt about China's commitment to transparency."
Ghebreyesus also praised China for setting "a new standard for outbreak response" and the speed with which China "sequenced the genome and shared it with WHO and the world." That sharing, however, didn't occur until January 12.
Many other WHO member-states share President Trump's understandable lack of trust in the organization.
A frustrated Japanese deputy prime minister has called WHO the "Chinese Health Organization." British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been rethinking U.K.-China ties over China's lack of candor about the virus has now personally experienced its deadly menace.
After all, it's difficult to place confidence in a United Nations bureaucracy run by a politician, not a medical doctor who as a member of the left-wing Tigray People's Liberation Front, rose through the ranks of Ethiopia's Marxist government regime as its health and foreign minister.
Ghebreyesus was a controversial pick for the WHO director-general job, having previously been accused of covering up cholera outbreaks in his native country. Then, after getting the top position in 2017, he tried to install Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe as a WHO goodwill ambassador.
Ghebreyesus also seems to have a special soft spot for China after it backed him to become WHO's director-general.
And what about some of that warm-hearted appreciation and goodwill charity for the rest of us — we American taxpayers who have been stuck with paying 22% of WHO's annual $2 billion 194- member-state budget, while China contributes only 12%?
Some accounting of those expenses are in order as well. More than half of WHO's budget is spent on travel expenses, including first-class airline tickets and 5-star hotels, rather than upon public aid services.
These costs of supporting what has been long-recognized as a politically-corrupted, wasteful, bureaucratic organization are of course less than trivial compared in the frame of incalculably vast and tragic morbidity, emotional and economic impacts of this avoidable pandemic.
Even if the Trump administration and Congress entirely eliminate most or all future U.S. WHO funding — as we can bet they will — there is still a much larger national imperative.
Of all institutions we should be able to trust for competent, objective, and honest leadership, those that we rely on for public health and safety guidance must urgently top the list.
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. He is the author of several books, including "Cyberwarfare: Targeting America, Our Infrastructure, and Our Future" (2020), "The Weaponization of AI and the Internet: How Global Networks of Infotech Overlords are Expanding Their Control Over Our Lives" (2019), "Reinventing Ourselves: How Technology is Rapidly and Radically Transforming Humanity" (2019), "Thinking Whole: Rejecting Half-Witted Left & Right Brain Limitations" (2018), "Reflections on Oceans and Puddles: One Hundred Reasons to be Enthusiastic, Grateful and Hopeful" (2017), "Cosmic Musings: Contemplating Life Beyond Self" (2016), "Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom" (2015) and "Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax" (2011). He is currently working on a new book with Buzz Aldrin, "Beyond Footprints and Flagpoles." To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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