Re-election game of Dr Tedros: Question China, act non-partisan

The statement — “There has been a premature push to rule out virus might have escaped from Chinese government lab in Wuhan” — by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Thursday at the global media briefing from Geneva stumped me and got me thinking. He further added that investigating the origins of Covid-19 in China was […]

The statement — “There has been a premature push to rule out virus might have escaped from Chinese government lab in Wuhan” — by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Thursday at the global media briefing from Geneva stumped me and got me thinking. He further added that investigating the origins of Covid-19 in China was being hampered by the lack of raw data on the first days of the spread there and urged it to be transparent. “We ask China to be transparent and open and to cooperate. We owe it to the millions who suffered and the millions who died to know what happened.”

For a moment, I allowed myself to believe that the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) probably developed a conscience after finally coming to terms with millions of lives lost and billions of people suffering on account of his and his office’s dereliction of duty and because of pandering to China’s coverup of its role in the Covid-19 pandemic. But Dr Tedros is not a health practitioner, he is a politician. And it is rare in the world to find a politician with a conscience. So there is more than what meets the eye behind his statement. I remember, on 6 April 2020, I had questioned Dr Tedros in a one-question interview during the global media briefing in Geneva. My question was: On 14 January 2020, WHO stated ‘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.’ As an independent global health organisation why did WHO have to rely on China’s preliminary investigations and not conduct its own investigations? To which he replied: “The rule we have in WHO and other UN agencies is when a member state reports, we post the member state report as is. What we did on 14 January on Twitter is we posted China’s report as is. That doesn’t mean that we agree or we disagree; we’re just reporting what came. If India reports, we post India’s report as is. If my country Ethiopia reports, we post that report and treat the same way all 194 member states. But when we post their reports on Twitter or website, we just put it as is and don’t change anything. But at the same time, if we have some differences with what is reported, we can say it. Before 13 January, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove and other colleagues were saying there is a likelihood of human-to-human transmission. Even on 14 January, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove and other colleagues were briefing journalists and they said, there is a likelihood of human-to-human transmission. Our guidance reflected all that.

When China officially reported that it discovered human-to-human transmission on 22 January, we just reported again exactly as we received it from China. That’s a normal procedure and we do it for any country but that doesn’t mean that we accept it or not. The most important thing is our guidance before, during, and after 14 January included the likelihood of human-to-human transmission. That helped countries to prepare.”

On 23 April 2020, I had an opportunity to participate in a one-question interview with Dr Tedros. I asked him: If he had the opportunity to rewind and go back would WHO have called the pandemic earlier than it did or much later? Dr Tedros replied: “Yes, I would like to add to that. My colleagues have already said; based on the International Health Regulations 2005, what is expected from WHO is declaring the Public Health Emergency of International Concern as early as possible based on the factors and as Mike said, the highest emergency as far as IHR is concerned was declared on 30 January. During that time, as Maria said, there were fewer than 100 cases, there were 82 confirmed cases on 30 January outside China. In China, we had more cases but outside China, we had only limited cases and most of these were in the neighbourhood and most of them — since they’re in the neighbourhood — the rest of the world was still reporting no cases. We had few in Europe: five from France, one from Finland, four from Germany; 10 cases in Europe when we declared a Global Emergency. 

In Africa, we didn’t have any cases. From the Middle East, the UAE had four cases so you can see it for yourself. We triggered the highest level of emergency when the rest of the world had only 82 cases and no deaths.  To add to that, a Global Emergency is discussed among experts. We have experts representing all over the whole world and they met on 23 January. They couldn’t agree; they were divided.  Then they continued for a second day but still, they couldn’t agree. Of course, they agreed to meet in six, seven days and then met for a second time on 30 January, when, based on the criteria we have, they were convinced that the criteria were met to declare this a Global Emergency. Looking back, I think we declared the Emergency at the right time and when the world had enough time to respond. ”

I remember the visit of Dr Tedros to China and his pro-China statements which was a consequence of his meeting with the President of China Xi Jinping on 28 January 2020. He said:

“It (China) has already done incredible things to limit the transmission of the virus to other countries. And where respect is due, then you don’t punish. Meaning if anyone is thinking about taking measures, it’s going to be wrong. And WHO doesn’t recommend, and actually opposes, any restrictions for travel and trade or other measures against China.

I think visiting China was a very important one, which is not a new one. Of course, I did it many times to other countries where there were outbreaks and so on. This one was special because I was able to learn many things from what China is doing. And I’m very confident about what they’re doing. I have seen the capacity, and I believe that they will control this outbreak as soon as possible. They have all the capacity that needs.

But not only what they’re doing is protecting their people, but I know from the figures also, you know that it’s protecting the rest of the world. Outside China, we only have 98 cases and no deaths. If strong measures were not taken in China this would not have happened. And that’s why I also said we have to appreciate what China is doing. And this declaration is not actually because China is not doing what it can. It’s actually doing more than China is required to do.”

On 27 September 2020, when questioned that the Covid-19 pandemic came from China at the global media briefing, Dr Tedros stated: “The virus has happened naturally. These are all the publications we know, and if there is anything that will change this, it should come through the proper scientific process.”

Early last year, when he was repeatedly questioned on his closeness to China by many in the media. Dr Tedros stated: “I cannot say they hid or they didn’t. If something is hidden, the world would have witnessed more cases spilling outside its border, given how connected China is to the rest of the world. But the number of cases is very small. Even if China hides it, I don’t think the cases would be prevented from crossing the borders to other countries. So it really defeats the logic.” Interestingly, his change of views contradicts the WHO Investigation panel that conducted the first study into the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic in Wuhan, China. They opined: “Introduction through a laboratory incident was considered to be an extremely unlikely pathway.”

So when Dr Tedros now does a volte-face on China. I am inclined to believe that this is a new game of the top chief of the WHO.

Rising questions over the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic, and research papers by global scientists indicating the possibility of a lab-leak at the Wuhan Virology Lab but most of all the election of the new Director-General of WHO could be the reasons behind this change in his statements on China.

Dr Tedros wants to be re-elected to the post of Director-General of the WHO. With most Member States questioning the dereliction of duty of the WHO under him. There reportedly is a sense of unsurety in the Dr Tedros camp on whether he would be re-elected. China lobbied hard for Dr Tedros for his first tenure. This time, he would need more than China’s lobbying, especially with the US having trained its gun on China with a focus to pin the blame on the Covid-19 pandemic on China.

The US also wants to cover up its own footprints over the continuation of the controversial gain-of-function research experiments at Wuhan Virology Lab. For which funds granted to Dr Shi Zhengli came from the US government through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under Dr Anthony Fauci. Dr Tedros needs more countries to back him and he cannot rely on China alone. He is not distancing himself from China but spinning to a subtle cover stating in his statement yesterday: “I was a lab technician myself, I’m an immunologist, and I have worked in the lab, and lab accidents happen. It’s common.”

The attempt now is to push the spin that if indeed a lab-leak theory gains global traction and evidence emerge, then it must be portrayed as accidental. Thereby absolving China of the questions over a bio-weapon and attributing the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic to an accidental lab leak. Dr Tedros’ recent statements are not misleading at all and neither is it a change of heart. It is the re-election game of Dr Tedros.