Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee issued a report Monday on the origins of the novel coronavirus, accusing China and the World Health Organization of a “failure of monumental proportions” in properly handling the virus at its onset.
Republicans on the committee, led by ranking member Michael McCaul, R-Texas, accused the Chinese Communist Party of “intentional efforts to mislead the global community” and delayed release of information on the virus.
“After months of investigating, it’s become crystal clear the Chinese Communist Party’s cover-up of the coronavirus, especially in the early days of the outbreak, played a significant role in turning what could have been a local epidemic into a global pandemic,” McCaul said in a statement to Fox News Monday. “And, unfortunately, the World Health Organization under the leadership of Director General Tedros only exacerbated the problem by repeatedly ignoring warnings about the severity of the virus, including from their own health experts, while at the same time parroting the CCP’s propaganda without independently confirming their claims.”
He added: “This was a failure of monumental proportions and it is imperative that we uncover the truth so we can set up future safeguards to prevent this from happening yet again.”
The report found that the CCP’s cover-up “greatly impacted the global response to COVID-19” and noted that “even once the response began, it was informed by WHO guidelines developed based on CCP lies and disinformation.”
The committee accused the WHO of ignoring its own guidelines put in place after the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s, which called for the organization to investigate reports of potential “public health emergency”—like SARS, a kind of coronavirus—from the start to prevent any chance of pandemic.
The committee also accused the Chinese Communist Party ignoring the rules requiring governments to report any information of a new SARS-like virus to the WHO within 24 hours.
In 2005 following the SARS outbreak, the WHO had updated the International Health Regulations (IHR), which were first adopted by the Health Assembly in 1969, acknowledging that the organization has “a central and historic responsibility” to manage “the control of the international spread of disease.”
The revised regulations included updates to global health security, including “epidemic alert and response,” “global public health response to natural occurrence,” “accidental release or deliberate use of biological and chemical agents or radio nuclear material that affect health,” and “severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), with a view to responding to the need to ensure global public health.”
According to Articles 6 and 7 of the revised IHR, members are obligated to provide the organization with all relevant public health information, including lab results, "within 24 hours of assessment ... of all events which may constitute a public health emergency of international concern." The document later cites SARS as an example.
But the report released Monday revealed that China never actually reported the existence of a novel virus in the country.
“Despite public reporting to the contrary, the [People’s Republic of China] never notified the WHO about the outbreak in Wuhan,” the report states. “PRC authorities also actively engaged in a cover-up designed to prevent the spread of information related to patients testing positive for SARS and their knowledge that the illnesses were caused by a coronavirus similar to SARS-CoV—in violation of the IHR.
Meanwhile, the committee found that the CCP “had sufficient information to warrant a full scale public health response as early as mid-December 2019.”
“Research shows that the CCP could have reduced the number of cases in China by up to 95%, had it fulfilled its obligations under international law and implemented a public health response at an earlier date,” the report noted. “The World Health Organization enabled the CCP cover-up by failing to investigate and publicize reports conflicting with the official CCP, while at the same time praising the CCP’s response.”
The report added: “In sum, the COVID-19 global pandemic could have been prevented if the CCP acted in a transparent and responsible manner.”
The report also noted that the CCP’s “cover-up” “cost thousands of Chinese citizens and hundreds of thousands of others around the world their lives,” and said that because of the lack of data from “patient zero” and “destroyed lab samples,” “we may never know the origination of SARS-CoV-2.”
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has defended the organization's early actions. "We didn’t waste any time. We didn’t want to waste any time," he said during a press conference last week.
He also said that the organization gave world leaders enough time to respond accordingly to the novel coronavirus. Tedros said that the organization declared a global health emergency when there were only 82 deaths from the virus outside of China, "meaning, the world had enough time to intervene.”
In April, McCaul called for the resignation of WHO's director -- something several U.S. lawmakers had done-- calling it “appropriate” as he is “the person conspiring with the Chinese Communist Party.”
Last month, President Trump announced that the U.S. is “terminating” its relationship with the WHO over its failure to enact reforms in the face of concerns over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its pro-China bias.
"Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs," Trump told reporters at a Rose Garden event last month.