WHO the HELL do they think they are? Matt Ridley joins debate.


By Matt Ridley

The World Health Organisation is gearing up to persuade the world’s governments to sign a new pandemic treaty in May.

Though called an ‘accord’ so as not to frighten democrats who still like that old-fashioned thing called accountability, it is a significant power grab by an unelected body that seems determined now to set down rules for how countries should react to future pandemics. Never waste a good crisis, as the saying goes.

Yet the WHO has a terrible track record in managing epidemics, not least in its response to Covid-19, where it made a series of bad mistakes and did China‘s bidding. The Pandemic Accord would be a reward for failure.

Last month Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, tweeted plaintively: ‘There’s a litany of lies and conspiracy theories about the #PandemicAccord.

‘Let me tell you what the accord is about — it’s a set of commitments by countries to strengthen the world’s defences in several areas: prevention with a One Health approach; health and care workforce; research & development; access to vaccines, treatments and tests; sharing of information, technology, and biological samples. What is so problematic about those commitments?’

This sounds lovely. But buried within the proposed treaty, and a parallel set of recommended changes to the International Health Regulations, is a grant to the WHO of power to instruct governments on how to manage societies during a pandemic, vesting that power in the director-general.

These undertakings would be ‘legally binding’ as the G20 leaders stated in Bali in 2022 and New Delhi in 2023.

The suggested amendment leaves little doubt as to who would be in charge: ‘ States . . . recognise WHO as the guidance and coordinating authority of international public health response during public health Emergency of International Concern and undertake to follow WHO’s recommendations in their international public health response.’

What would this mean for the Swedish government, which decided against fully locking down society and closing schools, avoiding the devastating economic consequences of lockdown without suffering worse excess deaths than other countries? Could it do so next time?

The accord would oblige countries to greatly increase funding of the WHO in the event of a pandemic, to pay for the ‘containment of spill-over at source’ and to hand over products such as vaccines ‘in accordance with timetables to be agreed between the WHO and manufacturers’. Would Britain under such strictures be permitted to roll out its vaccine programme with the remarkable efficiency it did from 2021 onwards?

Countries would also agree to limit criticism of the WHO in order to ‘combat false, misleading, misinformation or disinformation’. This very article could in theory be censored by our government at the behest of the WHO.

The recent track record of the body to which our government is about to hand such powers and funds does not inspire confidence.

A decade ago, the WHO admitted initially underplaying the West African Ebola outbreak for fear of offending member states, ignoring the alarm raised by organisations such as Medecins Sans Frontieres. It promised to do better next time. But it did worse.

On January 14, 2020, when hospitals in Wuhan were seeing a flood of Covid cases, many of whom had never been near animals in a market and some of whom were, in turn, infecting healthcare workers, the WHO repeated the Chinese government’s nonsensical insistence that you could normally only catch Covid from an animal, not a person: ‘It is very clear right now that we have no sustained human-to-human transmission.’

In January 2020, the WHO insisted it was a 'FACT: #COVID19 is NOT airborne'

In January 2020, the WHO insisted it was a ‘FACT: #COVID19 is NOT airborne’

The Taiwanese government had, by then, urged the WHO to rethink this dud advice, but the WHO does not even recognise Taiwan’s existence.

A crucial opportunity to nip the pandemic in the bud was lost. A few weeks later, while the Chinese government was punishing medical whistleblowers for telling the truth, WHO chief Tedros said his admiration for China’s actions went ‘beyond words’, while praising ‘China’s commitment to transparency’.

Tedros is an Ethiopian politician who got the WHO job at China’s insistence. The Chinese government twisted the arms of African countries to vote for Tedros in 2017 while reminding them of potential financial aid.

He rewarded Xi Jinping by officially recognising ‘traditional Chinese medicine’ as legitimate science, even though it includes eating pangolin scales — encouraging persecution of the harmless anteaters almost to extinction.

Having made these egregious errors in January 2020, the WHO then insisted it was a ‘FACT: #COVID19 is NOT airborne’. This turned out to be 100 per cent wrong, and led to people staying in the (crowded and unventilated) indoors, when we now know outdoor infection was very rare. The WHO should have said ‘stay outside as much as possible — for meetings, school classes and work’.

But these mistakes pale beside the howler the WHO made in 2021.

Having taken months to negotiate terms for a WHO team of scientists to visit China to investigate the pandemic’s origins, it then appointed Dr Peter Daszak to the team.

He was a close collaborator of the Wuhan Institute of Virology and had quietly organised a letter to the Lancet early in the pandemic condemning the claim the virus might have leaked from that laboratory while failing to disclose his own conflict of interest.

Before Covid, the WHO had been keen to stress the risk of laboratory leaks starting pandemics

Before Covid, the WHO had been keen to stress the risk of laboratory leaks starting pandemics

After the team reached Wuhan and spent days being shown mostly irrelevant sites, they held a press conference at which they dismissed the lab leak as extremely unlikely and endorsed a farcical Chinese government claim that it was far more likely the virus had reached Wuhan on frozen seafood from abroad.

So laughable was this that it backfired and Tedros had to concede a possible laboratory leak should be investigated.

He set up a committee to do so, which in the three years since has managed to obey a vow of near-Trappist silence on the topic.

It was left to independent investigators to unearth evidence that there was indeed a detailed plan to manipulate bat viruses in a laboratory to generate strains that could infect humanised mice — and to do it in Wuhan.

Before Covid, the WHO had been keen to stress the risk of laboratory leaks starting pandemics. In 2006, it said: ‘A new epidemic of SARS would most likely emerge from an animal reservoir or a laboratory doing research with live cultures of SARS-CoV or handling stored clinical specimens containing SARS-CoV. The risk of re-emergence from a laboratory source is thought to be potentially greater.’

Yet the Pandemic Accord almost completely ignores this risk. If a draconian treaty is to be imposed on us, at very least it should insist all governments share information about their research on high-risk viruses. Any government that fails to do this should be excluded from scientific collaboration until it complies.

At a time when China’s threat to Britain’s security is under scrutiny it would, frankly, be madness to give an unelected body in thrall to the Chinese government the power to tell our elected government what to do.

  • Matt Ridley is a former Conservative peer and co-author of Viral: The Search For The Origin Of Covid-19
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3 Responses to “WHO the HELL do they think they are? Matt Ridley joins debate.”

  1. ian says:

    Brilliant. It will get my backing.

  2. ian says:

    BTW I haven’t changed my tune, it’s just that what I want and what I expect, are very different.

  3. pete fairhurst 2 says:

    Good to see this is getting some mainstream coverage at last. Although I doubt that it will make any difference

    Global centralisation of such health matters is patently wrong and stupid. Different countries adopting different approaches is a far MORE healthy approach in the long run. Particularly if aligned with their populations wishes. The more variation of approach the better when facing an “unknown” threat, faster learning that way surely

    So this global centralisation desire by the lunatic elites gives their game away totally. How “unknown” is the real threat? Do they know something that we don’t? Of course they do. Are they not revealing something? Of course they aren’t……

    How is “one size fits all” possibly justifiable if there really is an “unknown” threat? It isn’t, one size fits all is against quick learning, no doubt about that whatsoever. So it’s clearly not about understanding the threat and overcoming it, it’s all about CONTROL. Do as I say! Or else! The usual violence that all governments rely upon, without exception

    Yet the zeitgeist just accepts this global “one size fits all” approach it as though there is no other way when there clearly is. Same lunatics control the media too don’t they….