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Leaked audio shows WHO leaders secretly criticize China at start of Covid pandemic

Top WHO leaders can be heard complaining about lack of data from China on human-to-human transmission

Dr. Michael Ryan. (YouTube, WION screenshot)

Dr. Michael Ryan. (YouTube, WION screenshot)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Audio from internal conversations among top World Health Organization leaders leaked late last month reveal that they were complaining about China's failure to provide information about the Wuhan coronavirus at the very beginning of the pandemic.

Despite words of praise by the WHO in public and assurances that human-to-human transmission of a new atypical pneumonia breaking out in Wuhan, audio leaked by Indian news agency WION reveals extreme frustration by WHO officials at China's failure to provide the organization with critical information about the virus. On Jan. 27, WION released audio recordings of top officials, including WHO Executive Director for Emergencies Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO Technical Lead Dr. Maria Van Kerklove, and WHO Representative in China Dr. Gauden Galea.

In the first clip, Ryan can be heard speaking to colleagues to try to apply more pressure on China to be forthcoming on what is really going on in Wuhan in the week of Jan. 6, 2020. Ryan said that the pattern of refusing to provide information was reminiscent of the SARS outbreak and claimed that the "WHO barely got out of that one with its neck intact..." amid China's issues with transparency in 2002.

In the second audio, Ryan is overheard complaining about the lack of data from China, saying that their claim that there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission is "not good enough." In reference to the Ebola outbreaks originating in the Democratic Republic of Congo and relative cooperation from the local government, Ryan said "This would not happen in Congo and did not happen in Congo and other places."

Ryan demanded that the WHO gain access to data including the "geographic distribution, the timeline, the epicurve, and all of that." However, rather than protecting the world from a potential pandemic, Ryan's rationale for obtaining the data was so that "we can protect China."

From that same week in early January, the news agency also released an audio segment of Van Kerkhove complaining that the organization was receiving "very minimal information" about ventilation and ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), both signs of severe illness, as well as deaths. She said that the information is "clearly not enough" to carry out proper planning for an outbreak.

Next, is an audio track taken that week of Galea stating that the organization had been both formally and informally requesting epidemiological information, but the message they received in reply was a statement that "a new update" will be coming out." When he pressed for more specifics, they would "get nothing."

In an additional clip, Galea complained that the WHO was only receiving information a mere 15 minutes before it was broadcast on China's state-run news outlet CCTV. In essence, all they were receiving was a press release minutes before the same carefully filtered information was spoonfed on state-run TV.

Despite signs of severe illnesses and death in Wuhan, including concerns that were raised as early as Dec. 31 by Taiwan, and a dearth of data from China, the WHO saw fit to announce on Jan. 14 that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus in Wuhan:

Updated : 2022-05-26 09:41 GMT+08:00