This delay from China, where COVID-19 originated, led to frustration among World Health Organisation officials, despite their public praising of China for transparency
The releasing of important coronavirus information during the early days of the outbreak was delayed by China, according to leaked World Health Organisation documents and recordings from their meetings that had been obtained by the Associated Press (AP).
Chinese officials waited over one week before publishing the genome of the novel coronavirus on the 11th of January, despite the fact that three different government labs had already fully sequenced the genetic code of COVID-19.
This comes after the total worldwide number of coronavirus cases has surpassed five million cases of people infected.
“Tight controls on information and competition within the Chinese public health system were to blame, according to dozens of interviews and internal documents,” AP reported.
And for two weeks following, the communist nation also delayed providing the WHO with any extensive and detailed data on their coronavirus patients and cases, according to the recordings, making it difficult for WHO officials to judge whether COVID-19 could spread from person to person, and what risks it could hold for the rest of the world.
One WHO official reportedly complained: “We’re going on very minimal information. It’s clearly not enough for you to do proper planning.”
AP said: “WHO staffers debated how to press China for gene sequences and detailed patient data without angering authorities, worried about losing access and getting Chinese scientists into trouble.”
The Chinese government did not comment on the reported leaks, but they have repeatedly said that they acted transparently.
“Since the beginning of the outbreak, we have been continuously sharing information on the epidemic with the WHO, and the international community in an open, transparent and responsible manner,” said Liu Mingzhu, an official with the National Health Commission’s International Department, at a news briefing on 15 May.
In a statement, the WHO said: “Our leadership and staff have worked night and day in compliance with the organisation’s rules and regulations to support and share information with all member states equally, and engage in frank and forthright conversations with governments at all levels.”
The WHO does not have enforcement powers, but international law requires countries to report information that may affect public health but.
WHO officials compared the lack of cooperation from China with other countries.
According to the report, Dr Michael Ryan, the WHO’s chief of emergencies, said to colleagues in the second week of January:
“This would not happen in Congo and did not happen in Congo and other places,”
“We need to see the data. It’s absolutely important at this point.”
The Wuhan Institute of Virology sequenced the COVID-19 genome by the 2nd of January, not long after the initial efforts to decode the genetic map of the novel coronavirus began in late December, and other labs across the globe were also trying to sequence the genome quickly.
This comes after President Trump announced that he was halting US funding for the World Health Organisation due to their handling of the COVID-19 crisis.