The International investigation into Covid-19

Written By: - Date published: 10:08 am, May 20th, 2020 - 81 comments
Categories: China, health, health and safety, International, uncategorized, us politics - Tags: ,

More than 110 nations have backed a call for the World Health Organisation to investigate the origins of the Covid-19 virus outbreak. New Zealand is one of them.

This is the text of the relevant clause of the World Health Assembly document on Covid-19 which includes the call for an inquiry:

OP9.10  “Initiate, at the earliest appropriate moment, and in consultation with Member States,

1 a stepwise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation, including using existing mechanisms,

2 as appropriate, to review experience gained and lessons learned from the WHO-coordinated international health response to COVID-19, including

(i) the effectiveness of the mechanisms at WHO’s disposal;

(ii) the functioning of the IHR and the status of implementation of the relevant recommendations of the previous IHR Review Committees;

(iii) WHO’s contribution to United Nations-wide efforts; and

 (iv) the actions of WHO and their timelines pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic, and make recommendations to improve global pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response capacity, including through strengthening, as appropriate, WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme;”

The global lead on this was taken by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison three weeks ago, when he called for the WHO to have the power to send a team of investigators into a country to determine the factors behind a disease outbreak. He likened them to weapon inspectors deployed to countries to verify disarmament programs. This was vigorously opposed by China and clearly has not made it into the current WHO resolution.

In case we forget what a total bully China is, following the Australian comments, China threatened to boycott Australian products. It cut imports of Australian beef on technical grounds, and on Monday its Commerce Ministry announced it would impose 80% tariffs on Australian barley.

Another prospect that China vehemently opposed and New Zealand got caned for – a Taiwanese presence at the World Health Assembly – also dissolved on Monday after Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said Taiwan would withdraw its bid for observer status, which Beijing had resisted.

Xi Jinping has now agreed, thrown $2 billion at the WHO, and folded. Also they’ve agreed if they get a vaccine it will be global public domain. Personally I think we should send them our entire medical bill. 

Now, sure, United States diplomats will use this opportunity to help defend the precarious position of their President with blame-offloading over 100,000 dead US citizens. And China will continue to throw out cash to the WHO to see if it can supplant the U.S. in another forum. It’s unlikely in an inquiry framed around “lessons” and the WHO functioning that there will be any mechanisms to prize open China to the scrutiny it deserves.

But beyond the macropolitics, we all need answers. The entire world has been damaged – as will all of us personally. Did we need to be damaged so much? What lessons learned are we going to gain that will improve our response next time? How will these global institutions get strengthened so that national health systems and governments can react faster?

Sunlight (along with washing your  hands long enough to sing Happy Birthday) is the best disinfectant.

81 comments on “The International investigation into Covid-19 ”

  1. bill 1

    he called for the WHO to have the power to send a team of investigators into a country to determine the factors behind a disease outbreak.


    I'll quite happily stand corrected, but my understanding was that China was already co-operating with the WHO on Covid, but that the US wanted an "independent" investigation and Australia jumped on board with that push coming from the US.

    Edit. For example (from Feb 18) Global Times reports the expert [WHO] team – including American experts – has arrived in Beijing and will visit South China’s Guangdong Province and Southwest China’s Sichuan Province to study the nation’s “prevention and control work on the novel coronavirus.”

  2. RedLogix 2

    Many thanks for this Ad.

    The portents for a trusted investigation satisfying anyone are not good. Already Xi Xinping has preempted the terms and timing of any investigation.

    And then as you have noted, retaliated against the nation that first led the call for an investigation.

    Both are signs of very bad faith. Personally I don't believe the CCP leadership has any intention of upholding even to the agreement they've signed up to. Their extraordinary "wolf warrior" diplomatic offensive of the past two months has undone their soft power gains of the past two decades. Why?

    My personal view is that it serves two purposes, one is to destabilise and drive wedges among the global trade community at a time of maximum disruption, the other more sinister again, is to provoke an anti-Chinese backlash that the CCP can use to inflame ultra-nationalist sentiments domestically.

    • bill 2.1

      "…provoke an anti-Chinese backlash that the CCP can use to inflame ultra-nationalist sentiments domestically."

      Hmm. So….by that way of thinking, you're probably in the pay of the CCP – given that the very finger pointing and arm waving you indulge in stokes anti-Chinese (and more broadly, anti – Asian) sentiments within society. (Like y'know, when my friend's child comes home from school pre-lockdown and tells her mum she has to stay away from Chinese people because they have a virus.)

      Hell. I thought the only ones who played that kind of game were the Zionists who are happy enough to throw Jews around the world under the bus if it furthers domestic and near abroad political ambitions.

      Anyway. Hope the pay's good. 😉

      • RedLogix 2.1.1

        Again my Chinese friends think you are a bit dense if you cannot tell the difference between being critical of the CCP and racism against the Chinese people.

        Kind of like those who pretend that being supportive of the plight of the Palestinian people, and critical of Israeli govt policy, is somehow anti-Semitic.

        If anything my message should be interpreted to be careful about how to react to CCP provocation, and to be aware that the major threat to the CCP's grip on permanent power comes not from global forces, but from internal, domestic uprising.

        • bill

          my Chinese friends think you are a bit dense if you cannot tell the difference between being critical of the CCP and racism against the Chinese people

          Then your Chinese friends think I've got some degree of smarts then? k.

    • KJT 2.2

      Or maybe they don't want a US led "independent investigation"/witch hunt, after all the unmitigated bull, the US Government is spouting.

      I wouldn't either.

      • RedLogix 2.2.1

        What this entire crisis is demonstrating in a most vivid fashion is the total breakdown of the conventional post WW2 big power model of global leadership. The CCP, the USA, the UK and Russia have demolished whatever moral credibility any of them had left.

        As I've been arguing for a while now, this breakdown in the global system has been underway for at least three decades since the end of the Cold War. Trump took a wrecking ball to it, COVID has greased the skids compressing the final collapse from years down to months.

        It is however a very bad assumption to think the 'end of globalisation' will necessarily be a good thing. Certainly it has been a far from ideal version of what a truly global system of good governance might look like, and it has been full of distortions, but it was still far better than the old world order of empire stretching from the Akkadian's to the British. Baby meet bathwater and all that.

        The question I pose is simple enough in the conception, but challenging in the details. We are living in a 'chapter turning moment'. What do we want the next chapter of our collective human history to look like?

        • KJT

          I thought we were discussing the USA, trying to make the Chinese look like much worse actors in the coronavirus outbreak, than they, likely, really were.

          Personally I don't like either the US or Chinese regimes. Or Russia's, or Turkeys, or Israel's, or Saudi Arabia's or Iran's. One lot of. ruthless, lying bombing babykillers is a bad as the other, in my book. Though for a long time, since the 50's, the USA's record is, in fact worse than the CCP.
          Any pretence about being a “force for good” in the world went with the Marshall plan and the Peace corps.

          I like USA’ians on the whole. Most of them genuinely think their country is the Star trekky, “force for good”. They are often puzzled why the rest of the world doesn’t see it that way. Victims of the US Governments successful false narrative.

          Meanwhile, New Zealand has to "tiptoe around the elephants feet" and hope we don't get squashed,

          • RedLogix

            Though for a long time, since the 50's, the USA's record is, in fact worse than the CCP.

            Different contexts make direct comparisons impossible. For much of that period the role of the CCP and that of the USA in the world has been very different.

            But if you imagine that the same people who bought you The Cultural Revolution, The Great Leap Backwards, Tianaman Square (along with the forgotten slaughter is many other cities), the invasion of Tibet, the permanent threat to occupy Taiwan, the concentration camps of Xianjing, the institutionalised abuse and rape of the Uighur people, the truly repugnant organ transplant trade, the Great Firewall of China, and the intrusive creepy 'social credit' mass surveillance system … well if you think the world would have been a better place with this crowd in charge I really don't think you have thought this through.

            As for NZ, the CCP's global ambitions firmly place us within their "third island chain" as part of their new empire. Meet the new elephant.

            • KJT

              But they are not in charge. The USA, for which I could make a similar list, is!

              Strawman, again!

              • RedLogix

                The USA, for which I could make a similar list,

                Yes you are perfectly free to make a list of US mistakes and wrong doing; no-one is pretending they're lilywhite or perfect. It would be a list, but not a similar one.

                Because comparisons matter. For instance with the CCP in charge of the internet, you and I would not be here typing out criticism of our leaders. And that is the daily reality for ordinary Chinese people right now.

                Or show me where the USA is eradicating an entire culture by mass imprisoning the men, and then forcing the remaining women to accept Han men into their homes to take their place?

                Or where the USA runs a mass trade in forced organ transplants of political prisoners?

                Or are you just going to run apologist lines for these totalitarian bastards all day?

                • KJT

                  Strawman again. I've never supported the CCP. Made it clear I consider the CCP a bunch of arseholes.

                  But you seem to believe, any far fetched US trope, against China.

                  "Gulf of Tonkin" again.

                  • RedLogix

                    I've never supported the CCP.

                    That's odd because when you tell us you think the CCP would have been better than the USA for the past fifty years it does rather look you are supporting them.

                    any far fetched US trope, against China.

                    Are you telling me the Great Firewall of China is a trope?

                    The Chinese government blocks website content and monitors individuals' Internet access.[4] As required by the Chinese government, major internet platforms and messaging services in China established elaborate self-censorship mechanisms. Some have hired teams of thousands to police content and invested in powerful AI algorithms.[5]

                    Many controversial events are prohibited from news coverage, preventing many Chinese citizens from knowing of their government's actions. Such measures inspired the policy's nickname, the "Great Firewall of China."

                    When you visit a totalitarian country, it's not always obvious in daily life. The vast majority of people look like they're going about ordinary life much the same as you do. It's hard to understand what the fuss is all about.

                    It's in the surveillance networks, the informants, the vast troves of clandestine records, the secret prisons, the torture and rape cells, and the mass disappearance of troublesome people that you don't get to see.

                    • In Vino

                      Been to the USA a few times, have you? 1984 and 'Brave New World' incarnate?

                      China did not actually invade Tibet. The US Department of Information clearly stated that Tibet is the 5th province of China in its Series "Why We Fight" issued during WW2. The only thing that changed after that was that after WW2 the Chinese people did not side with the traditional warlord Chiang Kai Chek and his Kuomintang Party favoured by Right-Wing US Govt. – they sided with Mao and his Communists, and booted Chiang + Kuomintang off mainland China to the Chinese territory Taiwan. The US Navy then prevented the Chinese communists from getting the justice of re-taking all their territory.

                      The moment USA decided communists were evil, Tibet suddenly changed from being a province to being a proud, independent country. A miracle!! Not only that: Mainland China suddenly ceased to exist. The True China recognised by The USA was.. wait for it – Taiwan!! Because Taiwan was not Communist and China was. A historical absurdity that we still struggle to come to terms with.

                      The fact is that Taiwan is a US-supported historical pretence.

                      What a bloody stupid circus you are trying to defend, RedLogix.

                      The USA is no better than the CCP. They just lie more skillfully, although Trump is throwing that into doubt.

                    • RedLogix

                      The moment USA decided communists were evil,

                      Yes, Stalin was argument enough. Nothing more needed saying, Mao Zedong's crimes were a tautology really.

                    • In Vino

                      And the USA's crimes in Vietnam for a start? Selective, aren't you?

                    • KJT

                      That is not what I said.

                      How about not arguing with things I am, not, claiming.

                      I've no idea how China would have been in the USA's place. And neither have you. I doubt their Government would have been the same, for a start.

                    • KJT

                      "Communists are evil".

                      I doubt if US hippy communes, New Zealand Ohu, or even many Israeli Kibbutzim, figured high in the scale of, evil.

                      The only places I'm aware of where "Communism" was actually practiced for more than a few weeks.

                    • KJT

                      "That's odd because when you tell us you think the CCP would have been better than the USA for the past fifty years it does rather look you are supporting them."

                      No. I didn't say that.


                    • RedLogix

                      The only places I'm aware of where "Communism" was actually practiced for more than a few weeks.

                      Ah the old Communist's weren't really communist argument. Well your own self limiting examples pretty much make the point. Nowhere, even at the most modest benign scale has communism been an enduring success. And at the scale of nations it has always started and ended in unmitigated disaster.

                      People who say this sort of thing are indulging in the conceit that if they had been in charge of communism things would have been different.

                      I've no idea how China would have been in the USA's place.

                      In which case I have to say that you are a complete fool.

                    • KJT

                      You have NFI.

                      To claim you know what a totally alternative history would have been like.

                      What if Mao had lost against the KMT.? For one.

                      But it has been obvious for a long time you are arguing against your own perception of "lefties" not me.

                    • RedLogix


                      To claim you know what a totally alternative history would have been like.

                      Quite unusually for such a question we have a pretty good answer at hand. Taiwan. And as I said above it's what the mainland could and should have been …

                      Both the PRC and the KMT have started out as totalitarian, murderous regimes for many decades, one far left, the other far right and both salient examples of taking extremist ideology too far. In that period there was little to choose between them, but the US supported Taiwan for one reason only, it saw the mainland communists as the greater of the two evils.

                      From the late 1970s to the 1990s, however, Taiwan went through reforms and social changes that transformed it from an authoritarian state to a democracy. Which validates and redeems the American choice.

                      While the CCP firmly rejects democracy, is firmly anti-Western liberalism, and under Xi Xinping is become increasingly repressive, while at the same time firmly asserting global scale hegemonic ambitions.

                      Now of course the comparison is not perfect because the geographies are different. But in the nature of these things it's as good an 'alternative history' experiment as you're likely to get.

                    • KJT

                      Redlogix. If the KMT had remained in power in China, they would have had the same incentives as the CCP, to remain totalitarian, authoritative and repressive, which is how they were in the beginning, in both China and Taiwan, to retain control over all China.

                      China would likely still have had a repressive totalitarian regime. Just a more outwardly right wing, one. Still grossly unequal.

                      Probably like Honduras or Haiti, if it didn't fragment into warring States.

                      In Taiwan the KMT had a strong incentive to show they could do better than the CCP, to show themselves as a credible alternative Government to the CCP.

                      That wouldn’t have existed, If they had retained power in China.

                    • RedLogix

                      All of which makes for an interesting case that China may never be the modern, liberal democratic entity as the West imagined it could be.

                      It always has been a nation with deep divisions, the buereaucratic/militarisitic Han of the Yellow River in the north, the merchantile cities of Shanghai and Sichuan in the Yangste basin, and the trading cities of Hong Kong, Shenzen and Guangzhou in the southern mountain region and ports, each with quite distinct cultural outlooks. And this is before we look at the substantial minority cultures in the inland western regions such as the Tibetans and Uighurs.

                      Historically these regions were far more at war with each other than ever united as a single empire. The idea of Chinese history going back a continuous 5,000 years is a total furphy, almost as absurd as claiming the EU is 120,000 years old because that's how long humans have been in the region. In fact that’s a good way to look at the PRC, not as a unitary state, but more like a crude proto-EU but with a much bigger army not overly squeamish about shooting it’s own citizens.

                      But in essence I agree with you, the CCP has committed to a totalitarian, one party, highly repressive regime in order to impose and sustain continuity of the PRC. (It begs an interesting question as to what holds the USA together, but that's different comment.)

                      The challenge that is becoming obvious to many people, is that China is a lot weaker than it pretends to be financially, demographically, geographically and economically. Thirty years of economic growth and rising middle class employment has come to an end, and the social contract that held down political dissent is now in tatters.

                      Xi Xinping's response has been so far to double down on the repressive, ultra-nationalist gambit. I'm betting this works out very badly.

                    • Stunned Mullet

                      RL you may be interested in this commentary if you can ignore the blog it's posted upon it's a good summary and read.


                    • RedLogix

                      @Stunned Mullet

                      Thanks for this. On a quick scan it looks interesting and worth a review. Two immediate thoughts:

                      Several contradictions are apparent around timing and dates that I'd like clarification on, but overall the picture is consistent with my recollections.

                      Also Kiwi in America is an 'interesting' actor. My memory of him is not serving me well at the moment. Is he a professional PR consultant of some sort?

                      None of this necessarily invalidates what he's saying, but I've got some caveats. This is why a trusted investigation is needed.

                  • Drowsy M. Kram

                    IMHO, RL would seriously consider pretty much any comment that supported his view that China is led by "totalitarian, power mad, thugs"; by "totalitarian bastards". Hope that his is a minority view, because I'm struggling to see any future for Chinese diplomacy if it’s not.

                    I wouldn't trust RL to write an objective comment about the CCP, because in his worldview the CCP is totally evil.

                    Just the other day he appeared quite receptive to some nonsense that Covid-19 was constructed/engineered in a Chinese laboratory. Based on the evidence, RL operates a deep double standard where the CCP is concerned. And that's just my opinion, based on his comments.

                    • In Vino


                      It disappoints me when people expect other cultures to behave exactly as their own imagined ideal..

                      I would just say of Russia and China: both have been poor countries compared to heavily-industrialised Western ones, with a culture of despotic, cruel government. Yet revolutions there are supposed to suddenly bring them up to Utopian levels of civilisation. Of course they revert to their bad habits: Stalin was the last of the great Tsars to date.

                      While leading Western countries practise barbaric cruelty in their foreign policies, we drink in the propaganda in our media which feed us the ideas we want. Brave New World.

                    • Incognito

                      That links to a comment by McFlock!?

                      FWIW, and IMHO, we don’t know enough to exclude the possibility that SARS-CoV-2 is engineered or manipulated/modified in some way. Along the same line, the leap from closest known (as in: reported) bat SARS-related or -like CoVs is rather huge. It may be possible that it jumped to humans some time ago and has evolved into its current form but why then has it been apparently latent all that time? Many gaps in our understanding.

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      It's towards the end of a conversation between McFlock and RedLogix – the sequence of comments is McFlock’s reply (@, RedLogix's reply, and McFlock's last word. Took place over ~20 mins.

                      Many gaps” – absolutely! The ‘substance‘ is sooooo thin; will the ‘plot‘ thicken?

                    • Incognito []

                      The corresponding paper in Nature was received 7 January. It describes the history of this first sequenced patient in detail. The dates and some details do not seem to match with information in Wikipedia.


                      In any case, once they had the sequence and had realised the importance of their findings they wrote the manuscript in very short time and submitted it to Nature, which accepted it three weeks later, which suggests that it went out for peer-review 😉

                      Note that these authors had no knowledge of and access to the sequence data of the closest related sequence (RaTG13 isolated in 2013 from bat faeces in a cave) because that hadn’t been published yet – that manuscript was received 20 January. Most peculiar.

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      And misinformation sooooo abundant – I trust the science will catch up reasonably quickly, provide everything doesn't go pear-shaped.



                    • RedLogix

                      It disappoints me when people expect other cultures to behave exactly as their own imagined ideal..


  3. barry 3

    While we are pointing fingers cooperation will be hard.

    Imagine if it was the US. Would they accept weapons inspectors coming in to look around to find fault?

    Sure China has reacted badly, but they can certainly be justified in reacting to the sort of provocation they are seeing from the US (and Australia as their lacky).

    If we are serious in looking for answers and learning for the future then we need to work with China not against them.

    No country has ever been expected to do more for a pandemic that started in their country than China has done.

    • bill 3.1

      It's just a Weapons of Mass Destruction MkII.

      The same US propaganda warriors who asserted Saddam Hussein's Iraq was most definitely hiding something have brushed off their play book.

      Having seen it once, no-one would fall for their bullshit again though, right? Oh wait. Russiagate. Syria….seems we're a world ridiculously captivated by the tired tricks of old dogs.

  4. bill 4

    For those who are a tad confused with all the propaganda muck that's flying around China, its response and transparency (or lack thereof), well…here's a comprehensive timeline (drawn up by a Chinese media source) of various communications and joint efforts between Chinese authorities, foreign governments and the WHO.

    Page searching "WHO" turns up over 100 hits. (Just saying).

    Those who are suggesting or claiming that Chinese authorities are guilty of more than generic bureaucratic incompetence – that they have been actively secretive or nefarious will, of course, be able to highlight and to some extent verify the falsehoods within that timeline 👿

    • francesca 4.1

      Given that early cases have now emerged from November in France and Italy and possibly the US, can we ask why these unusual pneumonia cases were not investigated ,and identified as a novel coronavirus, thus exacerbating the spread of the coronavirus to the rest of the world?

      Shouldn't the alarm have been raised?

      • RedLogix 4.1.1

        Keep in mind that the these 'early cases' in Europe in November were not associated with any obvious outbreak until three months later in February. That's not how the disease has behaved anywhere else, where within weeks of the first known cases arriving in the country or locations like the Diamond Princess, there was serious illness and death occurring of a nature and at an exponentially rising rate that doctors could not help but notice.

        Sure it's possible there were COVID illnesses and deaths occurring in Europe or the USA that were not being identified as 'novel' going back months, or even years if you want …. but that does not fit with the known timing of the major outbreaks since December.

        I agree these early European cases are a bit of a mystery, but given the first major outbreak is still first noted in Wuhan in early December by local doctors, well before anywhere else … that still has to be the first place to look for patient zero.

        • francesca

          Actually Red, that outbreak is known because Chinese virologists identified the novel coronavirus, published and made available its genome ,thats why it is now known

          What we know now is a drop in the ocean to what will be eventually known

          • RedLogix

            I stand to be corrected, but I understand that it was hospital doctors, not virologists, who first raised the alarm in Wuhan. Remember the notorious six whistleblowers, and the late Dr Li Wenliang who were arrested and fined for 'spreading false rumours'? These were the ordinary working medics who first noticed the Wuhan outbreak.

            Once the medical authorities realised their mistake, it was a matter of routine genetic analysis to identify the new virus. And these days that doesn't take very long to do at all.

            • bill

              Dr Li Wenliang was merely cautioned for initiating the spread of incorrect information that may have resulted in panic….

              And given that the information was both incorrect and initially only provided to his students or class mates (I forget which), "whistleblower" is hardly an appropriate label.

              • francesca

                He was an opthalmnologist who'd heard a rumour, passed it on to mates and told them not to tell anyone.The Wuhan authorities brought him in, gave him a ticking off for spreading rumours and released him Later the central authorities investigated, censured the Wuhan officials and exonerated Wenliang I will track this link down and post it if required

                • bill

                  Pat at comment 7 has provided a good link that verifies that take.

                • RedLogix

                  As I said, it was ordinary working doctors who first noticed the Wuhan outbreak in December. It didn't take clever virologists to spot that this was a novel disease; just good solid clinical work.

                  And that happened first in Wuhan. Now this doesn't 100% prove that patient zero was also in Wuhan, but it still makes it the most likely place to start looking.

                  The problem is that after five months of obstruction by the CCP, every week gone by has made it less and less likely the necessary chain of evidence needed to find patient zero … whoever and wherever that person was … is ever going to be found intact.

                  • Drowsy M. Kram

                    "It didn't take clever virologists to spot that this was a novel disease; just good solid clinical work." Nevertheless, there can on occasion be some delay between the first clinical observation of a novel disease, and an effective national or international response. Chinese clinicians and researchers seem to have responded (suspiciously? laugh) quickly this time. Note from the second link that the assembled genome sequence was submitted to the USA-based GenBank database on 5 Jan. 2020.

                    "As I said, it was ordinary working doctors who first noticed the Wuhan outbreak in December."

                    And "10 January: the first novel coronavirus genome sequence was made publicly available. The sequence was deposited in the GenBank database (accession number MN908947) and was uploaded to the Global Initiative on Sharing all Influenza Data (GISAID)"

                    • RedLogix

                      Yup. As I explained at 12:40 below, once you have the samples (and I accept that with a novel disease this is the tricky part), then if you have modern equipment available it only takes hours or days at most to do the genetic sequence. Your own timeline has the first clinical case found on 27 Dec and the genetic sequence is published 16 days later; that seems competent and professional, but not overly remarkable either.

                      Honestly at this point I'm kind of lost as to what point people are trying to make here. The first identified outbreak was in Wuhan, and all others were later. That means any logical search for patient zero should at least start there. And if that irks people because it leaves the WIV as a potential initial source still in the picture, then tough.

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      "Your own timeline has the first clinical case found on 27 Dec and the genetic sequence is published 16 days later; that seems competent and professional, but not overly remarkable either."

                      It's not my timeline, but thanks. Suspiciously "not overly remarkable", or just normally "not overly remarkable", in your expert (?) opinion?

                      Note that the genome sequence was submitted on 5 January 2020.

                    • Incognito []

                      Patient was admitted to hospital on 26 December but not clear when sample was taken for sequencing.


                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      Thanks for the link Incognito. Since RedLogix had been laying it on a bit thick in regard to whether 'China' had dragged it heels during the early stages of its Covid-19 response, I was just prodding to see if it might be possible to extract a modicum of praise (albeit grudging) for the achievements of the Chinese clinicians and researchers. Will have to settle for “competent and professional, but not overly remarkable“.

                    • RedLogix

                      Since RedLogix had been laying it on a bit thick in regard to whether 'China' had dragged it heels during the early stages of its Covid-19 response

                      I really don't recall criticising the Chinese medical people involved, rather my attention was directed to the political response.

                      But let's go back to that Shanhai based team who first uploaded the sequence on Jan 10th. Interesting to see that for all their competent efforts the govt shut them down for 'rectification' days later. Oh dear never mind.

                      Where I really did lay it on thick and heavy was the blatant contrast between the actions of the CCP in closing down domestic travel by 22 January, while spending much of February using it's diplomats to blast any nation daring to stop international travel with China as 'offensive and racist'. And leaning on WHO to hold off making the same obvious recommendation until it was far too late.

                      Or where they compelled Chinese researchers to destroy any samples of their early work, ensuring any chain of evidence would be compromised. And then ordering that any further research to be passed through political vetting before it could be published. And producing self-serving excuses that a 10yr old would laugh at.

                      This is an entity that owes it's political legitimacy to Mao Zedong, the greatest mass murderer in human history. Unless and until they acknowledge this, and make a final, permanent break with this dark legacy, nothing the CCP can do will be free it's stain.

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      Chinese researchers assembled and analysed the Covid-19 genome sequence, then submitted that sequence to the USA-based GenBank database on 5 January 2020. Date's right there in the first accession.

                      “Submitted (05-JAN-2020)”

                    • RedLogix

                      Oh very good, so there is a five day gap between submitting the genome and it being published openly.

                      And exactly what does this change? As I've said, once you have the virus sample it's a matter of hours or a day for the highly automated equipment to generate the sequence. Jan 5 or Jan 10 … I'm not familiar with the publishing process, but it looks like the time needed to review and verify results.

                      Now if the first patient had been tested on Dec 27 and the results posted that same day … then wow that would be remarkable. But this is still pretty much within the bounds of business as usual. Especially considering that the CCP political operatives had yet to grasp the gravity of the situation and were not yet imposing any controls.

                      Or shutting the lab down for unexplained 'rectification'.

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      There’s evidence that for perhaps as long as the first month of the Covid-19 outbreak the Chinese authorities made decisions and took actions that were less than ideal from our point of view.

                      From your "rectification" link:

                      Potentially really important moment in global public health – must be celebrated, everyone involved in Wuhan, in China & beyond acknowledged, thanked & get all the credit. Sharing of data good for public health, great for those who did the work. Just needs those incentives & trust.

                      Trust still seems to be in short supply.

                      "China, in the opening weeks of this pandemic, did not sufficiently share with its people and the world important information about the coronavirus crisis, and that might have impeded the global response. Yet Trump took longer than the Chinese government to acknowledge the threat and adopt serious measures. (Months later, he still has not done enough to create a testing and tracing regimen or to provide protective equipment to health care workers.) So Trump and his henchmen, searching for a distraction, can try to scapegoat the Chinese government as the number-one culprit, but as Confucius said, “Don’t complain about the snow on your neighbor’s roof when your own doorstep is unclean.

            • barry

              Let's not propagate folk stories.

              Of course it was doctors who first noticed the outbreak. Nobody goes to a virologist when they have pneumonia.

              Li Wenliang was an eye doctor who read a hospital bulletin (hardly secret) talking about the cluster of pneumonia cases. He passed it on a social media post to a group of friends and somehow the police heard of it. Someone who had no idea what was going on called him in and told him to stop spreading rumours (in the unique Chinese officious, bureaucratic manner).

              identifying the viral cause of the disease is hardly "routine". The speed with which it was done implies a herculean effort, by a small number of people. None of the doctors & virologists concerned made any discernable "mistake" at any stage of the process.

        • Nic the NZer

          The timeline says the US was directly informed at least on January 3rd of a major outbreak inside China. This would have been via communication between the two national medical bodies. This is also a communication I understood had occured via US reporting. So are you disputing this information was communicated at that time?

          • RedLogix

            So are you disputing this information was communicated at that time?

            I'm honestly not sure how you got from what I said above to this question.

            • Nic the NZer

              Pats comment number 7 basically highlights why the narrative from the US executive doesn't fit with the timeline of known communications between the countries.

    • KJT 4.2

      I was told about that timeline by a Chinese language speaker, a while back.

      No friend of the CCP, by the way.

      Nothing really untoward, he reckoned, after the incomprehension and incompetence at the start.

      Just like what happened with the Ruby Princess. Maybe Australia should be looking at their own health authorities, there.

      I reckon their should be an independent enquiry. Not, however the US repeat of "looking for WMD".

      • bill 4.2.1

        I reckon their should be an independent enquiry. Not, however the US repeat of "looking for WMD".

        I'd have thought that the WHO was more than capable of conducting or participating in an impartial enquiry/investigation of processes and what not given it's a public health matter that's under question- just as the OPCW was capable of conducting impartial investigations on the use of chemical weapons, before it got monkeywrenched and turned into a political tool off the back of US meddling…

  5. Can we also demand reparations for the GFC which originated in the US and rapidly engulfed the world?

    • Tricledrown 5.1

      China is fudging the figures still .

    • Anne 5.2

      Yes, this is a two edged sword.

      The current US regime is equally guilty of subterfuge, lies, deceit and false propaganda concerning Covid 19. In fact they are the instigators of the current stand-off with China for no other reason than to provide a national and international cover-up for their own grossly incompetent response to the disease.

      In time I think it will become more and more obvious as the disease blow-out in the US reaches horrendous levels, and it will be exploited by China to further there own world aspirations.

      The stupidity hurts!

    • bill 5.3

      Mbe on top of the GFC, the state of Kansas should be made to pay reparations to Spain and Spanish speakers for that nasty rumour about the 1918 flu they made no effort to quash for about a century?

  6. Ed1 6

    "Personally I think we should send them our entire medical bill. "

    Because of course we know what the evaluation / inquiry will conclude . . .

    • bill 6.1

      Because of course we know what the evaluation / inquiry will conclude . . .

      that according to humanitarian freedom fighters in the desert who have “a thing” for collecting heads, Saddam Hussein was hiding in Wuhan all along, Trump knew about it, and a Putin stooge was hung in Iraq – which is why we know that China's behind everything?

    • Drowsy M. Kram 6.2

      Yes Ed1, I wondered what the families of the 4,634 Chinese citizens whose deaths were attributed to Covid-19 infection would think about that, and whether the personal view you quoted would foster international cooperation. There but for the grace of God…

      There was a brief (4.5 minute) chat with Australian correspondent Bernard Keane on RNZ's nine-to-noon programme this morning, including the "blame game" on China's recent imposition of tariffs on Australian barley. Interestingly, "Australia has been engaging in its own trade war on China for a very long time." Indeed, the opinions expressed by Keane seemed more balanced than many of the (anti-China) opinions expressed on The Standard.

      Increasingly I'm less interested in whether a particular opinion here will eventually be shown to be correct/incorrect, and more intrigued by why the commenter might be so certain that their view is correct, before all the evidence is 'in'. Is there really no room for doubt in their mind; no reason for an impartial evaluation of alternative points of view? If jurors routinely invested in a 'guilty' or 'innocent' belief before all the evidence had been presented, would verdicts typically be more/less accurate, or would it make little difference?

      For the record, I'm not pro- or anti-China. Just the (full, balanced) facts, please.

      • RedLogix 6.2.1

        I'm not pro- or anti-China

        I'm actually very pro-China. But I'm very anti-CCP at the same time.

        Hell if you really want to understand, visit Taiwan. It's an amazing place, civilised, cultured and rich with history, and I had a great time there.

        It's what the mainland China could and should have been if it hadn't been run for 70 years by a pack of totalitarian, power mad, thugs.

        • Drowsy M. Kram

          Your opinion is that China was "run for 70 years by a pack of totalitarian, power mad, thugs." Does that include the current leadership?

          As you're rather fond of pointing out, living standards have increased dramatically across the globe in recent times, and China is no exception. Despite a considerable population burden, China today is in the "High human development" tier of countries. Given that you're “actually very pro-China“, I'm sure you'll agree that this is quite an achievement for “totalitarian, power mad, thugs“. The former British colony, India, which faces a simpler population conundrum, is in the "Medium human development" tier.

          • RedLogix

            Development in China is also rather uneven. In the big four coastal trading cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen there is incredible wealth and prosperity on display that would make your eyes water. And there is a solid middle class that across the country which is also quite remarkable.

            But the numbers don't tell the whole story. Step across the border to Hong Kong or Taiwan and immediately you are in a different world again.

            • Drowsy M. Kram

              As a self-professed "very pro-China" person, what's your informed take on the current political leadership in China – "totalitarian, power mad, thugs"? Feel free to dodge the question (again smiley )

              • RedLogix

                Oh that's easy. The short answer is that the moment Xi Xinping appointed himself "President for Life" you knew everything you needed to know.

                The longer answer is much more complex. From a strictly geopolitical point of view China is far weaker than it's likes to present itself. I've detailed their structural problems they face elsewhere, I'm sure you've read them.

                The social contract between the mass of ordinary Chinese people and the CCP goes like this, 'we will make you prosperour (or at least not dirt poor), and you will keep your mouths shut'.

                The existential problem the CCP are facing, and they know it, is that they are no longer able to deliver on their side of the deal. The Chinese economy faces contraction for the first time since the early 70's and that was before COVID. The people in turn will not remain silent indefinitely.

                They desperately need to double down on their control over the people, and the traditional method the CCP has always resorted to was to inflame ideological passions and divisions to divide the Chinese people against themselves, in order to repress dissidents and entire classes of people they may represent. And then afterward use the censorship powers of the state to shove the horror back down the memory hole.

                That's my read on this mess. Much of the CCP's aggressive posturing in the past months has been really directed at a domestic audience.

                I think that's run the bus forward and back over your question.

                • Drowsy M. Kram

                  Just a final check, following from your short answer.

                  Is it fare to assume that you regard the current political leadership in China to consist of "totalitarian, power mad, thugs"? “Totalitarian bastards” even?

                  • RedLogix

                    What do you think would have been the reaction to Key appointing himself "Prime Minister for Life" here in little NZ?

                    All sweet and peachy?

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      Not at all – I was trying, however, to elicit a definitive statement from you. Seems I have failed (again.) You're a tricky customer RL – just when I think I might have grasped your meaning, you slip-slide away.

  7. Pat 7

    "This is where the Trump administration’s conspiracy theory falls apart. COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus – it had never occurred before. Local Chinese officials were just as confused as anyone at the first signs of this outbreak. And they remained confused for some time. Why else would they have allowed street parties and holiday travel out of Wuhan prior to the Chinese Lunar New Year? When China’s national health officials did comprehend the virus’s highly contagious nature, Wuhan was shut down and sealed off, on January 23, 2020. Moreover, contrary to the Trump administration’s cover-up narrative, China did not deliberately keep US officials in the dark. The director of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) briefed his US counterpart on January 3 – within a week of Zhang’s initial report."

    • RedLogix 7.1

      The comment thread under that article is worth reading as well.

      • Drowsy M. Kram 7.1.1

        Thanks, and agreed – some very revealing opinions.

        • aj

          A person looking for intelligent comments threads will find 0.0 of them on, and that's a shame because most of the articles are well written and provide interesting reading with a diverse range of opinion.

  8. aj 8

    Coronavirus health emergency declaration delayed by a week, Australian WHO expert panel member says

    Mary-Louise McLaws, a professor of epidemiology at the University of New South Wales who also sits on the WHO’s health emergencies program experts advisory panel for Covid-19, said it was a disagreement between WHO member nations, and not the response of the WHO’s head, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, that ultimately slowed down the international escalation of the response to the virus.


    Speaking about the announcement of a review into Covid-19, McLaws told an Australian Science Media Centre webinar on Wednesday that the politicisation of Covid-19 was “unprecedented”.

    “The only unprecedented issue in my mind that stands out is the politicising of the source country,” she said. “We’ve had swine flu, we’ve had HIV, we’ve had Ebola, we’ve had mad cow disease, you name it, and we’ve never politicised the source before.

    “Now I need to remind people that that speed [to declare a PHEIC] is not the speed at which the director general Dr Tedros dictates at all. It’s the international health regulation committee … on that they had a committee that had the US, Australia, Senegal, and Russia and many other countries. They met on the 22nd of January. Now, could they have met earlier? That’s something that WHO might want to look at, [its] processes.

    “What happened during those meetings, the 22nd and 23rd, those members, the countries, not the WHO, the countries that are on that WHO committee, couldn’t come to a decision about whether it would be a public health emergency of international concern.”

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