China has come under fire for failing to curb the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan last year after Beijing bungled the initial response to the deadly virus.
Findings from an independent inquiry released on Tuesday showed that the ruling Communist Party government and the World Health Organization could have acted faster to avert the global catastrophe.
Headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response was set up by the WHO to look into the initial handling of the coronavirus crisis.
“What is clear to the Panel is that public health measures could have been applied more forcefully by local and national health authorities in China in January,” the 34-page study revealed, referring to the rapid spread in the Hubei province city of Wuhan.
“Containment measures should have been implemented immediately in any country with a likely [covid] case. They were not,” the report, which was compiled by a group of world leaders, added.
- The interim results of the inquiry have been published just days after a WHO scientific team arrived in China to trace the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Findings suggested that the “global pandemic alert system is not fit for purpose.”
- The WHO was also described as being “underpowered to do the job.”
- China has reported a new surge of infections in 11 regions as the total number of cases moves closer to 90,000 with a death toll of more than 4,600.
- Globally, more than 95 million people have been infected with fatalities passing the two-million mark, according to the Johns Hopkins University in the United States.
What was said: “According to the information analyzed by the panel, the reality is that only a minority of countries took full advantage of the information available to them to respond to the evidence of an emerging epidemic … Although the term pandemic is neither used nor defined in the International Health Regulations, its use does serve to focus attention on the gravity of a health event. It was not until March 11  that WHO used the term,” the Panel stated. The report added: “In retrospect, it is clear that the volume of infections in the early period of the epidemic in all countries was higher than reported. A largely hidden epidemic contributed to the global spread.”
Reaction to the news: Predictable. “China was the first country to alert the world about the epidemic even when it did not have sufficient information,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing. Yet since the summer, the Chinese government has been pushing an alternative agenda in a move to rewrite history about the Wuhan outbreak. State-run media has even suggested that the virus could have started in the West without a shred of evidence.
China Factor comment: A lack of transparency by the Communist Party has been the core issue amid the unfolding global disaster. Last month, research released by the country’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention reinforced allegations that China covered up the outbreak. CDC data showed that people initially infected by SARS-CoV-2 could have topped 500,000 or 10 times higher than the reported numbers. The big question now was why did it take so long before this information was made public?