According to a Reuters report released on May 3, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), plans to run for a second five-year term as the head of the agency, citing a person familiar with the matter.
Dr. Tedros, who was elected as the Director-General of the WHO for a five-year term by WHO Member States at the 70th World Health Assembly (WHA) in May 2017, had his global profile dramatically risen for leading the world’s battle against the Covid-19 pandemic since its outbreak in 2019.
When the coronavirus broke out in China, the country informed the WHO and the international community in a timely, open, transparent and responsible manner even since the early stage. Not only did China swiftly adopt serious measures to control the virus, but also cooperated and shared timely information including genome sequence of the coronavirus, detection and treatment protocols, etc., contributing greatly in advancing scientific understanding of the virus and the development of medical countermeasures worldwide.
As early as Jan. 18-19, 2020, China invited WHO delegation on a field visit to Wuhan City of central China’s Hubei Province, where they learnt about the response to novel coronavirus. The WHO delegation highly appreciated the actions China had implemented in response to the outbreak, its speed in identifying the virus and openness to sharing information with WHO and other countries.
Dr. Tedros has lauded China’s effort after the visit on numerous occasions, noting that “we appreciate the seriousness with which China is taking this outbreak, especially the commitment from top leadership, and the transparency they have demonstrated, including sharing data and genetic sequence of the virus.”
CHANGE OF WIND
With strict and efficient measures taken, China has largely contained the coronavirus by May 2020, with daily Covid confirmed cases less than a hundred, while the US, on the contrary, was suffering from a surging of Covid cases of more than ten thousand every day. To shift attention, the Trump administration went accusing Dr. Tedros and the WHO of being “China-centric”, and halted US contributions while starting the process of leaving the agency. Lawrence Gostin, a longtime WHO adviser, commented the action as a “blackmail”.
A few months later, as Trump was voted out of office, the Biden administration announced immediately in January 2021 that the US would remain a member of the WHO and fulfil its financial obligations while working on “reforms”.
OUT OF RULES Meantime, a joint team consisting of top international and Chinese experts was sent by the WHO to Wuhan in mission of conducting a joint research for 28 days from Jan. 14 to Feb. 10 in China. Tedros showed his full confidence in this research on Jan. 18, saying that “no one should be in any doubt that this is a scientific exercise.”
On Feb. 17, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken affirmed the UN Security Council during a video conference that they would pay the more than $200 million it owed to the WHO by the end of the month. “It reflects our renewed commitment to ensuring the WHO has the support it needs to lead the global response to the pandemic even as we work to reform it for the future,” he said.
With the payment made or not yet to be known, we did witness a turnaround in Dr. Tedros and the WHO secretariat’s attitude ever since.
Dr. Tedros was found distanced from the findings of the WHO-led joint team. The report was released on March 30, concluding that lab leak is “extremely unlikely”, and recommended conducting further research around earlier cases globally and further understanding the role of cold chains and frozen foods in the transmission of the virus.
Yet on the same day, when making remarks at the Member State Briefing on the report of the international team studying the origins of SARS-CoV-2, Dr. Tedros surprised the world by reviving the lab leak theory, a theory that the Biden administration was most keen on, in total defiance of the scientific work.
“Although the team has concluded that a laboratory leak is the least likely hypothesis, this requires further investigation, potentially with additional missions involving specialist experts, which I am ready to deploy,” Tedros said, “as far as WHO is concerned, all hypotheses remain on the table.”
An anonymous expert on the WHO-China joint team on the virus origins tracing was “surprised and unsatisfied” by Tedros’ comment, calling him “extremely irresponsible” for pursuing the “lab leak” theory.
May 23 this year, an exclusive report titled “Intelligence on Sick Staff at Wuhan Lab Fuels Debate on Covid-19 Origin” was published on The Wall Street Journal just a day before the World Health Assembly, sending the lab leak theory to the mainstream. The motivated article used only ‘recycled’ content from 2019 and lacked a decisive or coherent primary source. Moreover, one of its authors, Michael R. Gordon, was best known for his fake Iraq report claiming that Saddam Hussein held Weapons of Mass Destruction, which played a key role in raising public support for the Iraq War, ending up with countless innocent lives wasted.
Three days later, US President Joe Biden announced that he has ordered a closer intelligence review of what he said were two equally plausible scenarios of the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, and demanded a report back to him within 90 days.
Two weeks later, Tedros said on July 15 that investigations into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic in China were being hampered by the lack of raw data on the first days of spread there and urged it to be more transparent.
One day later, Tedros proposed a second phase of studies into the origins of the coronavirus in China, including audits of laboratories and markets in Wuhan, calling for transparency from authorities, when they had it all along. What’s also worth the attention is that unlike the first phase, the Secretariat is to establish a permanent International Scientific Advisory Group for Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO), which will play “a vital role” in the next phase of studies into the origins of SARS-CoV-2, as well as the origins of future new pathogens.
AGAINST THE DARK
By July 16, 48 countries have sent letters to the WHO opposing the politicization of the probe on the origins of the virus, urging the organization to act according to the resolution made by the WHA and push forward the global probe on the traceability of the virus.
By July 20, a total of 55 countries have submitted letters to the WHO Director-General concerning the COVID-19 origins study.
By Aug. 3, a total of 70 countries have voiced opposition to politicizing origins tracing and emphasized the importance of upholding the joint China-WHO study report via sending letters to the WHO Director-General and issuing statements.
Up to now, China has actively participated in global cooperation in this area with an open and science-based attitude. China has twice invited WHO experts to the country for joint research in origin-tracing. China has invested tremendous efforts, achieved important outcomes and reached authoritative conclusions.
Up to now, no evidence has ever found that samples of the new coronavirus had been stored at the Wuhan Institute of Virology prior to December 2019. No records have ever indicated that viruses closely related to the new coronavirus were kept in any Chinese lab before December 2019. None of the staff in any Wuhan labs studying coronaviruses has reported cases of respiratory illnesses “during the weeks/months prior to December 2019”.
Additionally, up to now, as further studies carried out worldwide, more and more evidence of coronavirus infections before the outbreak in China has emerged worldwide, including Spain, Italy, France, the US, Brazil, etc., suggesting that the novel coronavirus had likely spread globally months before it’s known. Efforts should be made to advance origins study in various countries and regions across the world.
Yet even now, Tedros and the WHO Secretariat still choose to make repeating what has already been concluded during the first phase of the origin studies its first priority.
Here is a full timeline of how Dr. Tedros reacted on Covid-19 origin tracing.