President Trump on Friday pointed to a Taiwanese email to the World Health Organization in December as evidence that the WHO and China hid evidence of human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus.
Trump suspended US funds to the WHO on Tuesday, saying the United Nations body failed to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic by circulating false Chinese data about the scope of the crisis.
“Why did the W.H.O. Ignore an email from Taiwanese health officials in late December alerting them to the possibility that CoronaVirus could be transmitted between humans?” Trump wrote on Twitter.
“Why did the W.H.O. make several claims about the CoronaVirus that were either inaccurate or misleading in January and February, as the Virus spread globally? Why did the W.H.O. wait as long as it did to take decisive action?” Trump wrote. He cited Lanhee Chen, a Hoover Institution fellow whose remarks were aired on Fox News.
As late as Jan. 14, the WHO said “there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission” of the virus.
Taiwan and the WHO disagree on whether a Dec. 31 email referenced human-to-human transmission, which China and the WHO would not confirm for weeks.
Why did the W.H.O. Ignore an email from Taiwanese health officials in late December alerting them to the possibility that CoronaVirus could be transmitted between humans? Why did the W.H.O. make several claims about the CoronaVirus that ere either inaccurate or misleading….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2020
The Taiwanese email said: “News resources today indicate that at least seven atypical pneumonia cases were reported in Wuhan, China… Their health authorities replied to the media that the cases were believed not to be SARS, however the samples are still under examination, and cases have been isolated for treatment.”
SARS is a coronavirus related to COVID-19. It is less contagious and killed 774 people worldwide in 2003, mostly in Asia.
Taiwan is blocked from WHO membership by China, which denies the free and democratic island’s national sovereignty.
This week, the WHO fired back at Taiwan, saying, “we are only aware of that one email that makes no mention of human-to-human transmission.”
Taiwan’s email was sent the same day as China alerted the WHO to the mysterious illness in Wuhan.
Globally the virus has infected more than 2.1 million people and killed at least 147,000.
The US has the world’s largest publicly recognized outbreak, with more than 670,000 cases and 33,000 deaths. At least 22 million Americans have lost their jobs following business closures to prevent spread of the virus.
White House coronavirus coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said at a recent press briefing that Chinese data on infection numbers led experts to believe the virus was less contagious, leading to less early concern among health officials.
Taiwan, which took early preventive steps, including mass production of face masks, has just 395 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
“The WHO’s reliance on China’s disclosures likely caused a 20-fold increase in cases worldwide, and it may be much more than that,” Trump said Tuesday.
The White House budget office has told federal agencies to redirect World Health Organization funds to groups that do similar work, indicating a 60-day suspension of WHO funding ordered by Trump will be permanent.