Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Thursday stressed strong distrust of the Chinese leadership and offered day-to-day account of federal steps taken to control the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic as officials addressed the uncooperative communist counterpart.
Azar said the genetic sequence for SARS-CoV-2 was not shared until January 9, 10 days after the virus was reported in the media, and probably about two months after it emerged.
“Being able to study the virus in January would have helped the United States and the world develop a scientific and data-driven response,” Azar said. “Instead, we flew blind, with transmission from viruses to humans not officially confirmed until January 20.”
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“We learned of an outbreak of pneumonia of unknown origin in Wuhan, China, on December 30, not through the country’s official channels, as required by international health regulations, but through media surveillance, as we do, and through a statement from Taiwan. economic and cultural office here in the United States, ”Azar said during a virtual discussion with The Heritage Foundation. “One of the very first ways the US government was notified of a new virus on the Chinese mainland was by people from Taiwan.”
“Even when we passed on the American people to the American people, we assumed we could not trust the reports from China,” Azar continued. “Reports from China suggested that the virus was probably there before November, and the Chinese government’s explanation for the outbreak did not make sense.”
Mens Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reportedly was informed by the China CDC that the virus originated from animals at a Wuhan market, several clusters of cases emerged among families in the first week of January. Azar said these clusters probably had not happened from close encounters with animals, and instead suggested human-to-human transmission.
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“There was so much we needed to know and so little information came out of China,” the secretary continued. He detailed how China did not recognize requests to send a team of CDC technical experts to help with a study until the end of January.
A team from the World Health Organization was also delayed in deployment until the end of February.
“Our team also pressured the Chinese government to send us viral isolates from patients there, and China has still, a year later, failed to supply the first generation of viral isolates.”
Azar said the United States was denied the opportunity to learn about COVID-19 from the country it is likely to originate from. He also defended the administration’s early praise for China, saying it was necessary to have some cooperation, with US officials allegedly pressuring them privately. Azar slammed the WHO for continuing this praise to China, saying, “Unfortunately, the WHO never made the shift we did, and continued to leave praise to China to this day.”
However, months of diplomatic quarrel with Chinese officials drove the head of the UN health agency to express a rare criticism of China, saying he was “very disappointed” that the Chinese government had not approved the now ongoing visit on 5 January. This probe will work to investigate the origin of the virus, including a visit to Wuhan, where a team of 13 WHO officials is now under a two-week quarantine.
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“In May, member states of the World Health Organization had to by decision approve a study specifically on the origin of the virus. Incredibly, it was only this week that investigators were allowed to enter China. In addition, these investigators will largely examine the analyzes already analyzed by Chinese researchers, “he said.” This lack of scope for investigation is the result of months of negotiations last summer and into the autumn between the WHO and China without input from the WHO board.
Azar suggested that if a new virus had emerged in a democratic nation, a global outbreak could have been avoided – unlike an authoritarian government in China.