- The Chinese government and its main propaganda outlet are touting remarks from World Health Organization official Michael Ryan, who said the public is “over-focused” on the accuracy of Beijing’s coronavirus data.
- “I think we need to be very careful also to not to be profiling certain parts of the world as being uncooperative or non-transparent,” Ryan said at a press conference in Geneva on Wednesday.
- The WHO has come under withering criticism for accepting the Chinese government’s data on the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in Wuhan.
- The spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry said that Ryan “refuted” allegations of data manipulation.
World Health Organization official Dr. Michael Ryan defended the Chinese government against allegations that it has manipulated its coronavirus data, saying at a press conference this week that observers have become “over-focused” on the issue.
The Chinese foreign ministry’s chief spokeswoman amplified Ryan’s remarks on Thursday, saying he had “refuted” allegations that Beijing has manipulated coronavirus data.
“I think we need to be very careful also to not to be profiling certain parts of the world as being uncooperative or non-transparent, and we need to look at transparency across the board,” Ryan, the executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program, said at a press conference in Geneva.
A reporter had asked officials about Beijing’s new policy to include asymptomatic coronavirus patients in the government’s overall coronavirus infection tally. The reporter also asked whether WHO has been “manipulated or taken for a ride” by accepting China’s data.
Ryan rejected the premise of the reporter’s question, suggesting that governments around the globe are struggling to report accurate data because of the chaos caused by the pandemic.
“We need to be balanced in that and we need to recognize that systems under pressure find it hard to share everything on a minute-to-minute basis,” Ryan said.
“Frankly, at times I think we get over-focused on this issue.”
He pointed to a “lack of precise information from Italy” — which has been hit hard by the virus — but said that the medical system there has been overwhelmed with an influx of patients.
“Are we saying they’re lacking in transparency and not sending WHO all the data every day?” Ryan asked rhetorically of Italy. “No.”
WHO has come under intense scrutiny over its deference to the Chinese government. U.S. intelligence officials reportedly concluded that the communist regime has concealed the extent of the pandemic inside the country.
Florida Sen. Rick Scott on Tuesday called for a congressional investigation into WHO’s role in “promoting misinformation” to help the Chinese government “cover up a global pandemic.”
Scott cited a Daily Caller News Foundation report about Dr. Bruce Aylward, the WHO official who led a fact-finding mission to China in February.
Aylward has heaped praise on the Chinese government’s “agile and aggressive” response to the coronavirus pandemic. He said at a Feb. 24 press conference that the response “changed the course” of the pandemic.
If the Chinese government’s draconian crackdown of its citizens helped slow the spread of coronavirus within the country, the rest of the world has not fared so well. There were around 80,000 official cases of coronavirus in the world at the time of Aylward’s comments, most of them in China. As of Thursday, just over 1 million cases have been reported across the globe, with nearly 240,000 of those in the United States.
China’s propaganda outlets have touted Aylward’s remarks. Xinhuan News Agency, China Daily and People’s Daily have used video from his press conferences and interviews to promote a pro-China narrative.
China’s foreign ministry and Xinhuan News Agency, the regime’s top propaganda outlet, did the same with Ryan’s comments in Geneva.
“The most qualified judges are WHO and experts in the field of infectious disease or disease control, not a few politicians with mouthfuls of lies,” China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a press conference Thursday.
“Just yesterday, April 1, at a press conference held in Geneva, the relevant person in charge of WHO once again refuted the unjustified accusations of opaqueness of Chinese data.”
Chunying accused U.S. officials of trying to “slander and discredit” the Chinese government. She did not identify any politicians by name, but she tweeted a link to a CNN report that Vice President Mike Pence blamed China for the U.S.’s delayed response to the pandemic.
The WHO’s embrace of data from China has seemingly led the world health agency to draw inaccurate conclusions about the threat posed by coronavirus.
On Jan. 14, the WHO published a tweet accepting China’s assurances that the novel coronavirus was not spread through human-to-human transmission. Aylward insisted for weeks that China’s data suggested that coronavirus was not being spread by asymptomatic patients.
Researchers have since compiled data undercutting both theories. It is not clear that coronavirus is spread through person-to-person contact. Scientists also believe that at least 25% of coronavirus carriers display few symptoms of illness.
One prominent expert on infectious disease blasted the WHO this week for creating a false sense of security about the threat posed by coronavirus.
“Many of us were incredibly disappointed for lack of a better word in the WHO and its response,” Dr. Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said in a podcast interview published Tuesday.
“When you look at what WHO did I think they set us back a great deal because they made countries believe if just a few countries that were going to get this would just do the containment work, we could stop it.”
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