Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Program, defended China on Thursday against accusations that the country has underreported cases and deaths from the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.
“I think we need to be very careful also to not to be profiling certain parts of the world as being uncooperative or non-transparent, and we need to look at transparency across the board,” Ryan said at a Geneva press conference.
“We need to be balanced in that, and we need to recognize that systems under pressure find it hard to share everything on a minute-to-minute basis,” Ryan continued. “Frankly, at times I think we get over-focused on this issue.”
Ryan claimed that there was a “lack of precise information from Italy,” whose medical system has been overwhelmed by the sheer amount of coronavirus patients. “Are we saying they’re lacking in transparency and not sending WHO all the data every day? No.”
As of Friday morning, Italy has over 115,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 13,915 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker. However, a Wall Street Journal analysis suggests the Italian coronavirus death toll could be much higher than was reported, because health workers did not have the time or resources to test all the casualties for the illness.
The U.S. Intelligence Community has reportedly concluded that China covered up the extent of the outbreak in the country. One recent study found that roughly 95 percent of global cases could have been prevented if China acted earlier to stem the outbreak. Meanwhile, Senator Rick Scott (R, Fla.) has called for a congressional hearing on the WHO’s ties to China, while Senator Martha McSally on Thursday called on the director of the WHO to resign.