Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa

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Grassley on the World Health Organization Handling of COVID-19

May 05, 2020
Prepared Floor Remarks by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
On the World Health Organization Handling of COVID-19
Tuesday, May 5, 2020
 
The World Health Organization’s mission is to promote worldwide health, reduce the burdens of disease and poverty and provide access to health care especially for the world’s most vulnerable populations.
 
The World Health Organization states as its guiding principle that all people should enjoy the highest standard of health, regardless of race, religion, economic or social condition or political belief.
 
It serves primarily as a coordinating body to share information and best practices by connecting experts in different countries.
 
The novel coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, China, which causes the disease now known as COVID-19, has had a devastating impact on the health of people worldwide as well as the global economy.
 
Nations, including the United States, have been scrambling to deal with this impact since the beginning of the year.
 
Without a doubt, worldwide efforts to combat COVID-19 would have greatly benefited from independent, unbiased and informative data from the world’s leader in health, the World Health Organization.
 
Unfortunately, information coming from this organization since the beginning of the year has left a lot to be desired. Often providing information that we now know to be inaccurate or incomplete.
 
The American people and citizens of every country, all of whom rely on direct and truthful information, deserved better from Dr. Tedros and his team.
 
China, where the current crisis began, has not done its part in seeking or providing that crucial information.
 
For example, a doctor in Wuhan, China, by the name of Dr. Li Wenliang raised concerns about a growing pandemic in early January.
 
Dr. Li tried to blow the whistle on the spread of one of the world’s deadliest diseases, only to be punished by the Communist Chinese government for “spreading rumors.” 
 
Tragically, Dr. Li passed away in early February due to COVID-19.
 
After the death of Dr. Li, he became a rallying point for Chinese citizens upset about their government’s cover-up.
 
Only then did the Chinese government apologize to his family and posthumously drop Dr. Li’s reprimand.
 
Neither was the World Health Organization interested in accurate and verifiable information on the true dangers of this virus.
 
We now know that in late December 2019, Taiwanese officials had sounded the alarm about human-to-human transmission of the virus directly to the World Health Organization.
 
Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control sent an email to the organization, which was forwarded to my office and has been widely reported, warning of “at least seven atypical pneumonia cases .in Wuhan, China.” 
 
Additionally, the communication noted that these individuals had been isolated for treatment, which is said to be standard operating procedure for preventing human-to-human transmission.
 
Taken together, this information should have been a red flag for World Health Organization’s leadership that the virus was capable of human-to-human transmission.
 
Unfortunately, the World Health Organization chose to ignore these warnings and failed to pass on this critical information to other countries.
 
Instead, the World Health Organization was complicit in the Chinese government’s cover-up stating the opposite.
 
In fact, the World Health Organization even retweeted Chinese propaganda on January 14th that there was “no clear evidence of human-to-human” transmission.
 
Misleading the public like that is simply egregious.
 
By sidelining Taiwan’s participation, which has one of the lowest known COVID-19 infection rates per capita despite its proximity to mainland China, the World Health Organization stymied information about a more effective response to the pandemic in the critical early days when the spread of the virus could have been greatly slowed or even contained.
 
This gross mishandling of the Organization’s most important mandate – to coordinate responses and facilitate information sharing during a health emergency – has cost countless lives around the world.
 
While China covered up the extent of the virus’s spread, the World Health Organization continued to praise the country for its so-called proactive response and transparency.
 
General Secretary Xi Jinping waited a crucial six days until January 20 before announcing findings by China’s National Health Commission about the danger of widespread human-to-human coronavirus contagion.
 
His government also delayed an access request for World Health Organization experts to visit affected regions at the end of January by almost two weeks, and has continually fed disinformation to foreign citizens, via several misleading tweets by the foreign ministry spokesperson and multiple unfounded claims posted on state-run media websites.
 
Despite this and other evidence that China actively silenced whistleblowers and doctors domestically, and that Communist Party officials were aware of the spread well before reporting it, World Health Organization officials continued to praise China’s response and transparency.
 
They lauded China for releasing the virus’s genome in mid-January, while neglecting to mention that it took China at least 14 days to do so.
 
Even as the virus continued spreading across Europe and reached America, Dr. Tedros said in early February that there was no need for measures that “unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade” in trying to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
 
Time and time again the World Health Organization endorsed and repeated Chinese government talking points, to the rest of the world’s detriment.
 
We now know that there was a continual flow of misinformation coming from the Chinese government since the onset of the pandemic, with little to no pushback by the World Health Organization on whether that information was accurate.
 
In mid-February, officials from the World Health Organization yet again uncritically parroted Chinese government propaganda by stating that there were signs that confirmed and suspected cases of COVID-19 had declined in China.
 
The United States Intelligence Community has in fact asserted that China misrepresented both the number of cases and its death toll from the virus, concealing the real extent of the outbreak in its country and that China intentionally hid or even destroyed evidence of the coronavirus outbreak.
 
In a dossier that was leaked to the Australia’s Daily Telegraph, it’s alleged that China began censoring information as early as December 31, 2019, precisely when Taiwan was sounding the alarm to the World Health Organization.
 
Previously, Chinese leaders came under incredible scrutiny by the World Health Organization back in 2003 for the SARS outbreak.
 
China was not transparent with SARS.
 
The Chinese government made sure that information regarding the outbreak was not made public.
 
The World Health Organization publicly reprimanded China.
 
Chinese leaders then quickly fell in line with the rest of the world in sharing its data with other World Health Organization member countries.
 
However, we are seeing a very different approach to the organization’s handling of China’s information-suppression campaign, with the World Health Organization often praising China for its information sharing.
 
But make no mistake, China has been nothing but deceptive in its handling of COVID-19.
 
We must remember that China has a long history of not being transparent with respect to outbreaks of viruses, and there is little to no evidence suggesting we should start believing China’s communist leaders now.
 
Global leaders are now coming to realize that China is responsible for this pandemic, with global sentiment against the Chinese Communist Party at its highest since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
 
It’s important that world leaders, including President Trump, keep the pressure on China to finally be transparent with its data so that we can join together in combating this deadly disease.
 
A report by the Department of Homeland Security said that China “intentionally concealed the severity” of the pandemic from the world.
 
To make matters worse, the report further states that while China continued to downplay the pandemic, it began to increase imports and decrease exports of medical supplies, suggesting that China was beginning to hoard these medical supplies from the rest of the world.
 
Secretary Pompeo recently stated that there is a significant amount of evidence that this virus came from the laboratory in Wuhan, China, contrary to what Chinese Communist Party propagandists have been pushing.
 
On April 9th, I wrote to the World Health Organization seeking answers to several questions regarding the organization’s handling of COVID-19.
 
I wanted to know what the World Health Organization knew and when.
 
I asked that my questions be answered no later than May 1st.
 
Much to my dismay, the World Health Organization has refused to answer my questions about its handling of the virus.
 
It would seem that the organization is much more focused on covering for China than it is in answering questions that every single American has the right to know.
 
I will continue to push the World Health Organization for answers.
 
Ultimately, primary responsibility for this pandemic lies with Chinese government authorities, who actively concealed the outbreak since the fall of 2019 and suppressed the spread of accurate information about it.
 
But the World Health Organization also bears responsibility for aiding and abetting the Chinese Communist Party’s cover-up.
 
That is why I support a full congressional investigation into how the World Health Organization has bowed to Chinese pressure with the COVID-19 outbreak.
 
The leaders of the World Health Organization need to be held accountable for their role in promoting misinformation and helping China cover up a global pandemic.
 
Americans deserve to know what the World Health Organization leaders knew, and when they knew it.
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