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WHO Quietly Changes COVID Timeline following Republican Questioning

Logo at the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. (Denis Balibouse/Reuters)

The World Health Organization quietly changed its timeline of the coronavirus pandemic’s first days on Tuesday, clarifying that the Chinese Communist Party never informed the organization of the pandemic on December 31, despite previous claims to the contrary.

In the new timeline, which the WHO says has been updated “in light of evolving events and new information,” the organization reveals that its Chinese Office “picked up” an online statement — which has since been deleted — made by the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission describing cases of “viral pneumonia.” The WHO says it also received open-source intelligence suggesting there was “pneumonia of unknown cause” in Wuhan.

The additions clarify the WHO’s previous timeline, which simply stated that on December 31, “Wuhan Municipal Health Commission, China, reported a cluster of cases of pneumonia in Wuhan” — implying the report was made to the WHO. In its initial report on the outbreak, the WHO said its China office “was informed” of the unknown pneumonia cases, without clarifying that the information was not provided by the Chinese Communist Party.

The lack of clarity led multiple outlets — including Axios, the Washington Post, and the BBC — to report that Chinese authorities told the WHO’s China office about the outbreak on December 31. But an interim report released last month by Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee scrutinized that claim, and argued the CCP never actually told the WHO about the outbreak.

“I’m glad to see the WHO and the Chinese Communist Party have both read my interim report on the origins of the pandemic and are finally admitting to the world the truth — the CCP never reported the virus outbreak to the WHO in violation of WHO regulations,” HFAC Lead Republican and China Task Force Chairman Michael McCaul (R., Texas) told National Review. “The question now is whether the CCP will continue their false propaganda campaign that continues to claim they warned the world, or whether they will come clean and begin to work with the world health community to get to the bottom of this deadly pandemic.”

The WHO did not respond to a request for comment.

McCaul, along with China Task Force member Jim Banks (R., Ind.), have argued that China violated the WHO’s International Health Regulations by failing to be transparent about the origins of the pandemic.

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