China’s President Xi Jinping had called up World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom in January to request him to downplay information about the coronavirus pandemic, Germany’s federal intelligence agency Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) has claimed. The allegations by the BND were reported by German publication Der Speigel.
As per the intelligence agency, President Xi had personally requested the WHO chief on January 21 to delay sending a message about coronavirus pandemic and dilute the seriousness of the threat, Der Spiegel has reported.
The outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on January 30, according to WHO. However, it was only on March 11 that the apex global health organization 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 January 21, 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 Jan. 21 and they have never spoken by 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, with several influential policy-makers doubting the WHO’s role in letting the situation slip out of hand. Many countries, including US President Donald Trump, have cast aspersions on WHO for being hand-in-glove with Beijing and suppressing crucial information about the virus’ 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 April 15.
(The WHO has denied the allegation reported by Der Spiegel. The article was last updated at 10:25 PM on May 10 and includes the rebuttal by the WHO).