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Taiwan vice president slams WHO chief over coronavirus comments

WHO director-general failed to take into account country differences in virus fight: Chen

Vice President Chen Chien-jen (screengrab from his Facebook page) 

Vice President Chen Chien-jen (screengrab from his Facebook page) 

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus gave out erroneous messages because he failed to observe changes in the way countries dealt with the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) said Wednesday (March 11).

The global health body chief carelessly changed his comments about the mortality rate, ranging from underestimating the scale of the threat to creating a panic, CNA quoted Chen as saying. The vice president gained prominence as Taiwan’s health minister during the 2003 fight against SARS.

He criticized the WHO lists which only mention the number of coronavirus cases and the number of deaths without taking the countries’ populations into account. Taiwan, Japan, and the United States would come out with the lowest incidence of the virus using the calculation method he proposed, Chen wrote on his Facebook page.

Comparisons are made difficult by the fact that different countries use different methods, with some only testing serious suspected cases while others target all patients with symptoms of the virus. The latter would consequently confirm a higher number of coronavirus cases, according to the vice president.

Therefore it is wrong for the WHO chief to state that the fatality rate of the virus is increasing, as he has not studied the diverging ways in which countries test for and calculate the cases, Chen said. Age, the presence of other diseases, and the quality of healthcare also play a part in the process of diagnosing the virus, he concluded.