Since the outbreak of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) in China, praise from experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) to China for their efforts to contain the spread of the disease has been constant. However, as the virus has spread through 53 countries and left more than 6000 confirmed cases and 86 dead (outside China), as of February 29, 2019, Internet users have pointed to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus , Director General of WHO, for his favorable position to China at the beginning of the outbreak.
At the beginning of March 2020, almost half a million people have signed an online petition requesting their resignation.
Praise to China
By multiplying by ten the confirmed cases of COVID-19, which went from 45 on January 17 to more than 500 cases registered on January 23, China announced the isolation of Wuhan. By then, many health experts had already alarmed about a possible global outbreak, but members of the WHO emergency committee did not agree on this point. During a press conference, Tedros stated that it was not necessary to declare a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).
On January 28, Tedros visited China and met with the president of China, Xi Jinping. After this visit, he commended China for its “commitment to transparency,” which contrasts with the report of human rights observers who criticized China for its dictatorial measures that had prevented the flow of important information about the outbreak. As of February 21, 416 Internet users had been punished for “spreading rumors” about the new coronavirus.
Tedros postponed the PHEIC statement until January 30, but insisted that it was not necessary to “interfere unnecessarily with travel and international trade.”
Just days earlier, on January 26, the mayor of Wuhan admitted that more than five million inhabitants of Wuhan had left the city before their blockade was declared. It was feared that those who left the city would spread the virus throughout the country. In less than a week, the number of confirmed cases in China increased to almost 10,000. As more and more cities announce drastic measures to contain the virus, they could leave China for an extended vacation in other countries.
Although Xi promised Tedros that China would be willing to receive an international team of experts composed of 10 to 15 members to help study the origins of the virus, the process was delayed and, in the end, China only opened its doors to an “advanced team of experts ”composed of three WHO members. The media linked to the state and Chinese media platforms, such as Weibo and Tiktok, widely disseminated audio fragments from WHO's leading expert, Bruce Aylward, in which he praised China with statements such as “to Wuhan citizens, we recognize that The world is indebted to you ”and“ if I had COVID-19, I would like to be served in China ”.
Aylward insisted that China's rapid response has proven effective in containing the outbreak. At the same time, he criticized other countries for not taking similar measures. Later, Aylward admitted to the press conference that he has not been quarantined after his trip to China because he did not visit any “Danger zone” in Wuhan.
On February 25, one day after the “advanced team of experts” finished its mission in China, the total number of new cases confirmed outside of China exceeded China's number for the first time. On February 27, there were 4351 confirmed cases and 67 deaths in 48 countries. In South Korea, the number of confirmed cases exceeded 3,000 with 17 deaths. Italy reported that there were over a thousand cases of COVID-19 and 29 deaths. BBC sources reported that there were 210 deaths from COVID-19 in Iran.
Many are wondering why Tedros is reluctant to declare the outbreak as a pandemic.
The “slow and weak response” of WHO
Internet users are angry about the inaction of WHO, which has caused jokes like this:
Legends say if you whisper ‘Pandemic’ 3 times in front of a mirror Tedros Adhanom appears pic.twitter.com/4yPcEZuu7q
– Coronavirusmemes (@ Coronavirusmem1) February 28, 2020
There is a legend that says if you whisper “pandemic” three times in front of a mirror appears Tedros Adhanom.
Some accuse Tedros for his statements in favor of Beijing:
– Bird Lennon (@bird_lennon) February 22, 2020
The death toll rises when you trust “China is a terrorist.”
The death toll rises when you trust the WHO director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Are they colluded? Anyone would say it.
WHO, please stop fake news about CCP China, you make the world drain into virus, It is highly recommend to dismiss Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus from Director General of WHO @realDonaldTrump @JustinTrudeau @VP @BorisJohnson pic.twitter.com/PWC7bhblsd
– BNO & CC Equal Rights Rummage (@ NewHope35384494) February 26, 2020
WHO, please stop the fake news about CCP. You are letting the virus spread throughout the world. It is very necessary that Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus resigns from his position as Director General of WHO.
Others point out their contradictory language:
I think I now understand what Tedros was talking about regarding the “window of opportunity.” pic.twitter.com/Q3QOu1pP7M
– NotAPandemic (@LegendarySCV) February 21, 2020
I think I now understand what Tedros was talking about when he referred to the “window of opportunity” ..
Joshua Wong, a Hong Kong activist, highlighted the slow and weak response of WHO under the direction of Tedros:
(Public enemy No 1 is not only the virus, but also WHO chief Dr. Tedros’s weak and slow response) pic.twitter.com/o9GTdrhkOJ
– Joshua Wong 黃 之 鋒 😷 (@joshuawongcf) February 29, 2020
(The virus is not the only enemy number 1, so is the slow and weak response of the head of WHO, Dr. Tedros).
Read more about Global Voices' special coverage of the global impact of COVID-19.