Awaiting the Next Pandemic 

By Wiliam J. Furney

Just when you thought the United Nation’s health organisation that’s supposed to help protect the health of the world couldn’t get any worse in their obsequience to China — putting all our health at risk — they go ahead and do it anyway. 

Those traditional “wet” markets in China where coronavirus is believed to have emerged — at least according to research from Chinese universities that found the virus’ genome is nearly identical to other coronaviruses found in bats, which are widely sold as food at these places — are now reopening, and with the backing of the World Health Organisation.

Is it any wonder Trump has pulled the plug on WHO funding, leaving the Geneva-based organisation — widely criticised for praising Beijing’s initial response to the outbreak when the heavy-handed Chinese authorities were cracking down on anyone (doctors) daring to speak out about a potential new pathogen that was killing people — reeling as its loses its biggest donor that gave it $400 million last year?

And as concern built over China’s scant Covid-19 numbers, in the most populous country in the world, with 1.4 billion people, the authorities there went ahead this week and bumped up their epicentre-Wuhan death toll by 50%. Insisting there was “no cover-up”, the Chinese said now that things were getting back to normal in Wuhan and elsewhere in the world’s manufacturing powerhouse, they had time to go through more cases and record additional infections and deaths from the novel coronavirus. 

That’s still just over 4,600 deaths while the US has recorded more than 37,000; Italy has close to 23,000; and Spain, where I am stuck and about to enter a sixth week of total lockdown, has over 20,000 fatalities. 

Something doesn’t add up. As French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview with the Financial Times this week, “There are clearly things that have happened that we don’t know about.” And Britain — courtesy of Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is the country’s de facto leader as Prime Minister Boris Johnson recovers from a severe bout of coronavirus that put him in intensive care for days and said it “could have gone either way” — says it can’t be “business as usual” with China after this health emergency has passed. 

But one thing that is back to business as usual is China’s traditional markets, where you’ll find all kinds of creatures, the usual, exotic and downright bizarre, on sale. The Australian government is, rightly, incandescent that the WHO, helmed by under-fire Tedros Adhanom, has thrown its weight behind the decision to allow traders to sell at the markets once more. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said the markets are a “global health threat” and that it’s “unfathomable” that they’re now back in business.

“Australia and the world will be looking to organisations like the WHO to ensure lessons are learned from the devastating coronavirus outbreak,” he told The Australian newspaper this week. “There must be transparency in understanding how it began in Wuhan and how it was transmitted. We also need to fully understand and protect against the global health threat posed by places like wet markets.”

Tedros, an Ethiopian who is the only non-medical doctor to run what’s supposed to be the preeminent health body on the planet, has also been roundly slated for blithely accepting China’s coronavirus figures without any investigation on the part of his organisation (and who had the full support of Beijing for the top post, to which Tedros was appointed in 2017) — a bizarre circumstance given the Communist regime’s long history of suppression, aggression, lies and cover-ups, and including the Great Firewall of China that keeps most of the freely available information on the internet out of reach of its own people. 

“With adequate facilities, proper regulation and good hygiene practices, it is possible to have safe food sold in wet markets,” is what the WHO limply said about the reopening of China’s wet markets, according to The Australian. 

It’s far from sufficient, when the virus has ravaged the world and so far killed close to 157,000 people from nearly 2.3 million cases of infection — and those are just the confirmed, tested ones. It’s highly likely the real figures are far higher. 

As Trump said this week (even if he was attempting to deflect blame from his own administration’s bungled efforts) in announcing his suspension of funding, “The WHO failed in its basic duty and it must be held accountable.” 

As has China. Especially given other major health crises that emerged from within its borders in recent times: SARS and avian influenza. Have we learned nothing? 

And so, instead of any one or institution taking any meaningful action to stop this trail of worldwide devastation from happening again, it’s just back to business as usual and all we can do is hope for the best. It’s also little wonder that not only are there now growing calls for Tedros to be booted out of the WHO but for the entire organisation to be disbanded. If it can’t protect the world’s health, it has indeed failed, entirely.

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