Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there are “many questions” for the World Health Organization and China when questioned about a media report that officials at the organization praised the regime’s early handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic in an attempt to get it to share critical health information.
During a daily briefing with journalists about the pandemic, Trudeau was asked about a report from the Associated Press that cited recordings and internal records of WHO meetings in which officials expressed frustration with China for not sharing information.
The report says WHO officials decided to try using public praise to “coax” data about the burgeoning crisis out of Beijing even though the data being offered was described as “clearly not enough.”
“I think there are many questions that need to be asked about the World Health Organization, about China and other countries’ behaviours through this,” Trudeau said.
“We need to focus right now on doing everything we can to keep Canadians safe … the World Health Organization remains a truly important ally in doing that but there are many questions that need to be answered going forward.”
The Trudeau government has been tight-lipped on its view of how the Chinese regime has handled the pandemic even as other countries, including Australia, have led a global push for a probe into the outbreak.
Many of the questions being raised focus on Beijing’s early muzzling of scientists and doctors raising alarm bells about the virus and whether that hampered international efforts to contain the spread during the critical, early phase before the outbreak became a pandemic.
While the outbreak originated in China, it has since spread to infect 6,193,548 people worldwide, killing 372,479 others.
In Canada, there are 92,379 cases and 7,395 deaths.
Trudeau has acknowledged there will be questions “particularly” for China as the world evaluates the global response at an uncertain future date, but has avoided any criticism of the regime.
China is currently the main source of personal protective equipment for Canada.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu, however, accused a journalist asking whether Chinese coronavirus data could be trusted of “feeding into conspiracy theories” in April and stood by that statement last month.
But according to the report by the Associated Press, World Health Organization officials were complaining privately as early as Jan. 6, 2020, that China was not sharing enough information.
“We’re currently at the stage where, yes, they’re giving it to us 15 minutes before it appears on CCTV,” said WHO’s top official in China, Dr. Gauden Galea.
CCTV refers to the state-owned China Central Television network.
Officials were also described in the report as saying that while they believed Chinese scientists had done “a very good job” of detecting and decoding the virus genome, they feared that pressing for gene sequences and detailed patient data would get the scientists in trouble with authorities.
Officials also feared doing so could cost them access, the report said, and that lack of detail about patients contributed to a lack of understanding about how the virus was spreading during the critical early stages of the outbreak.
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