(nypost)–The fog of war obscures much about the novel coronavirus pandemic. But two facts seem absolutely certain. First, China’s Communist authorities have lied, concealed and misled about the origins of the epidemic and the toll of the virus in China. Second, the World Health Organization has acted as Beijing’s handmaid.
The result: The global toll of the tragedy will be much greater than it need have been.
We shouldn’t be surprised that the Beijing regime lies about the epidemic: It lies about, well, everything. From economic data to air pollution figures, the Communist Party doctors information to protect and promote itself.
Naturally, in the face of a grave national-health threat, the incentive for dissembling was tremendous. So Beijing spun and suppressed information about the outbreak and impact of the coronavirus.
Independent Chinese journalists have detailed the Wuhan coverup: They report that a Chinese lab isolated and identified the strange new virus last December — but that the authorities ordered it to stop its work, get rid of its specimens and keep quiet. It took almost another month for the government to acknowledge that a SARS-like contagion, spread by human contact, was exploding in Hubei province.
When the late Dr. Li Wenliang, the heroic whistleblower, tried to warn the public about the coronavirus, he was detained, charged with “spreading false rumors” and accused of “seriously disrupting social order.” All discussion about the virus is now censored.
As for China’s official figures on cases and deaths: These are obviously an undercount, possibly a preposterous one. Regarding prevalence: China’s health numbers didn’t even count infected patients if they tested positive but remained asymptomatic.
Concerning deaths: News reports indicate that delivery of funeral urns has spiked in Wuhan, the epicenter of the pandemic. Whereas Beijing currently admits to some 3,300 coronavirus fatalities nationwide, Chinese netizens cited by Radio Free Asia are claiming the Wuhan tally alone is far higher than that.
One widely circulating guess is that the true figure is closer to 40,000. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s scientific advisers have concluded that paramount leader Xi Jinping’s regime has downplayed the true number of cases in China “by 15 to 40 times.” As Bloomberg reported this week, the US intelligence community has likewise informed the White House that China’s reported infection and death totals are implausibly low.
Then there is the Communist Party’s active disinformation campaign abroad. This month, for example, in a tweet that garnered 160 million views, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson suggested that the coronavirus might actually be American in origin — brought to Wuhan by the US military!
Which brings us to the WHO’s malfeasance in this affair. The WHO should have known at the outset that it was dealing with a bad-faith actor in Beijing. Yet instead of immediately insisting upon access, openness and transparency from China, WHO leadership followed the Chinese lead and at times even took the Chinese line.
The very fact that truth-seekers are left counting urns is an indictment not only of the Beijing regime, but also of the WHO. To help stem the pandemic, the WHO should have been tirelessly pressing China to tell the truth.
Far from sounding an alarm, however, the UN outfit was impassive while Beijing stonewalled international health authorities for weeks. Indeed, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised the Chinese regime for its “transparency” in the crisis. Tedros, recall, was Beijing’s candidate for WHO chief and owes his job to China’s campaign for him at the United Nations.
At the end of January, when President Trump ordered a travel ban against entry to the United States from China and other coronavirus “hot spots,” Tedros, echoing Chinese authorities, roundly criticized the decision, insisting it would “have the effect of increasing fear and stigma, with little public health benefit.” By March 12, when the WHO finally declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, misbegotten deference to the Chinese government had incalculably impeded the effort to contain the contagion.
When the full history of this episode is eventually written, the Chinese Communist Party will bear massive responsibility for this plague that has swept the earth. So will a World Health Organization that seemed too interested in the health of the Chinese regime at the moment of truth.