Germany’s federal intelligence agency Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) has reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping had called up World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in January to request him to downplay information about the coronavirus pandemic — according to the German publication Der Speigel.
The BND said President Xi Jinping had personally requested the WHO chief on 21 January to delay sending a message about coronavirus pandemic and dilute the seriousness of the threat, Der Spiegel has reported.
The WHO classified the outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on 30 January. However, it was only on 11 March that the apex global health organisation declared the coronavirus outbreak as a ‘pandemic’.
The WHO, meanwhile, has denied the allegation that its boss spoke to the Chinese president. “Der Spiegel reports of a 21 January 2020 telephone conversation between Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and President Xi Jinping of China are unfounded and untrue. Dr Tedros and President Xi did not speak on 21 January and they have never spoken by (sic) phone,” it said in a statement.
The allegations of the telephone call have surfaced amid intense scrutiny of the WHO’s actions in the initial stages of the outbreak. Several influential policy-makers doubted the WHO’s role in letting the situation go out of control. Many heads of states, including US President Donald Trump, cast aspersions on WHO for being hand-in-glove with Beijing in suppressing crucial information about the viral disease’s outbreak.
The US, formerly a leading funder of WHO’s activities, last month announced that it would be halting its financing to the WHO, with President Donald Trump stating at the time that it had “failed in its basic duty” in its response to the outbreak.
“I am directing my administration to halt funding while a review is conducted to assess the World Health Organization’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus,” Trump had said during a daily press briefing on the coronavirus situation on 15 April.