Canada’s International Development Minister Karina Gould is facing criticism after saying it’s “not the World Health Organization’s place to be skeptical of China” and its coronavirus response.
Minister Gould’s comments come as both China and the World Health Organization’s director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus are under pressure from the international community to explain their handling of the COVID-19 outbreak.
This is not the first time a high-ranking Canadian Government official has defended the WHO. Gould’s comments come just one month after Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam defended the Organization’s performance.
Canada’s Liberal government has consistently deferred to the WHO and its guidelines throughout the pandemic, with Dr. Tam often citing the Organization on social media when pushing policies and sourcing information — information that often was rapidly revealed to be misleading, and slowly changed.
From December to January, the World Health Organization was quelling the concerns of the world by advising that there was no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of COVID-19. These findings came from the Chinese Communist government, and the WHO did not inquire independently to determine the validity of these claims.
As late as January 12, the WHO continued to advise that travel bans were ineffective and unnecessary, stating “[the] WHO advises against the application of any travel or trade restrictions on China based on the information currently available on this event.” Their recommendation to prevent border closures from coronavirus hotbeds continued into February, at which point the virus was detected in the United States and several other nations.
Canada’s refusal to close the border to COVID-19 hotbeds was directly guided by the WHO, with Health Minister Patty Hajdu stating in plain language, “We are following expert guidelines from the World Health Organization” on February 17, when the WHO was still insisting border closures were ineffective.
The WHO was still standing by its line on border closures being ineffective on March 13, a date when Italy’s death toll alone had surged past 1,000, and the global infection toll stood at 126,000.
As with their border advice, the WHO was also the “expert” source on discouraging face masks, recommendations Dr. Theresa Tam persisted in until the end of March. Canada’s Health Ministry officially advised all Canadians to wear a face covering to protect themselves from COVID-19 on April 1.
Like the early reports of COVID-19 being non-transmittable, many of the WHO recommendations were directly linked to information provided by the Chinese government.
Today, WHO envoy Dr. David Nabarro asked that calls for an examination into its handling of the coronavirus response be suspended until after the crisis has ended, while separately stating that the crisis may never be over.