When an international health organization costs lives instead of saving them, something must be done.
Humankind may never know the full cost of Covid-19.
This is true especially considering some of the countries hardest hit, like China and Iran, are among the least likely to be honest about the death toll in those countries.
“Without commenting on any classified information, this much is painfully obvious: The Chinese Communist Party has lied, is lying, and will continue to lie about coronavirus to protect the regime.”
“They lied to the world about the human-to-human transmission of the virus, silenced doctors and journalists who tried to report the truth, and are now apparently hiding the accurate number of people impacted by this disease.” — Rep. Michael McCaul, House Foreign Affairs Committee
The U.S. intelligence community agrees that Chinese authorities have not been forthcoming with accurate information about Covid-19 cases and deaths in China. Some of the journalists and doctors who warned authorities initially about Covid-19 were taken into custody and are still missing.
It is likely the Chinese central government couldn’t give an accurate deaths total even if it wanted to.
And not just because in China, like anywhere, early deaths from Covid-19 might have been mistaken for something else. Provinces in China, and the officials running their respective state and local governments, are in a situation where they might be punished for telling the truth- if the truth makes the Chinese government look bad.
Since Beijing has made a habit of shooting the messenger, Chinese authorities have a dwindling number of people willing to give Xi Jinping bad news.
In context, it is important to remember that the totalitarian governments of China and Iran are not underestimating their death tolls and rates of infection for the sake of keeping up appearances for the world. Chinese authorities know perfectly well that the world’s scientific community doesn’t believe that only 4,600 Chinese people have died from coronavirus. It defies credulity.
It is to fool the people of China and Iran that these numbers are altered: To cast their respective governments in a better light.
To give the impression that Covid-19 had very little impact on the people of China, expressions of grief for deceased loved ones has been limited by government officials. To avoid giving lie to the underreported numbers, funerals must be quick and quiet.
And no online discussions about the official Chinese death toll are permitted on the strictly controlled Chinese internet, either.
These measures aren’t to fool the scientific community; they are to fool the citizens of China. For the good of society, a strong faith in the Chinese government must be maintained. In this instance, scientific facts that do not support this end cannot be permitted.
That this is utterly incompatible with scientific principles, and scientific theory, goes without saying.
That an international health organization, like the World Health Organization (WHO) can’t concern itself with the public relations campaigns of various world governments also goes without saying.
The WHO has allowed itself to be coopted as a mouthpiece for the Chinese Communist Party and something must be done.
It is for the government of Beijing to impress the citizens of China with their competence; this is not a job for the WHO.
That China failed to warn the world about coronavirus is a problem, but understandable. Again, they are more concerned about keeping up appearances in-country than what anyone else thinks about the Chinese response to the coronavirus.
That the WHO didn’t question that narrative and instead ran cover for Chinese authorities is the problem. The WHO parroted Chinese government talking points that COVID-19 was non-transmissible between humans- when scientists within the WHO, and scientists from Taiwan, warned that it was.
The WHO condemned early travel bans. Like China, the WHO insisted the danger was minimal.
Scientific experts now admit that early travel restrictions likely saved lives. Critics of Trump point out that most early U.S. cases originated in Europe, rather than in Asia, as if that proves Trump’s early ban on travelers from China was wrong. On the contrary: It suggests that more cases would have come from China, have the travel ban not been instituted, and that travelers from Europe should have been banned sooner.
Had the WHO recommended such measures, world leaders might have taken action sooner to prevent further spread. Had the WHO pushed Chinese authorities for more accurate information about the outbreak in China, world leaders could have restricted travel much sooner.
The WHO, and the undue influence China has asserted over it, must be examined closely.
Trump’s decision to suspend U.S. financial support for the WHO pending an investigation is an attempt to create free market pressures on an organization which is not currently subject to any such pressures to perform competently.
Money, or lack thereof, is indeed the only pressure a U.S. President is allowed to exert, unlike China.
President Donald Trump can’t kick the international scientists of the WHO out of the United States; not without such an executive order being immediately countermanded by the other two constitutional branches of government, and the U.S. press. Not to mention the hundreds of state and local lawmakers who would defy any such orders- as “Sanctuary cities” have defied Donald Trump’s immigration orders.
Chinese communist party leader Xi Jinping, on the other hand, can kick WHO scientists out of China as easily as he expelled U.S. journalists a month ago for having the temerity to question the official Chinese communist party line.
The WHO has allowed the Chinese government to exert undue pressure over it, and much like the Bloomberg News organization, recent revelations about pro-Chinese censorship has cost its right to claim objectivity. Or do its job properly.
Plenty of people from both sides of the aisle admit that yes, the WHO is terrible at its job and its leadership leaves a great deal to be desired. However, critics of the President’s actions, his timing, and his motives, have offered no other alternatives as to how the WHO is to be brought into competency.
In its defense, the WHO is a health organization and can work in sovereign nations only with permission. China isn’t only the totalitarian government that has managed to bully the WHO into silence about deadly outbreaks of disease.
But in fairness to President Trump, the WHO isn’t the only worthy public health organization. And the citizens of the world deserve an international health agency that will serve international public health.
Not the government of any one country at the expense of everyone else.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)