This article is the third article in a series examining the policy approaches taken by Texas congressional members regarding U.S.-China relations amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX-10), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the chairman of the House GOP China Task Force, released an interim staff report on Monday that investigated the origins of COVID-19, specifically examining the actions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
“After months of investigating, it’s become crystal clear the Chinese Communist Party’s cover-up of the coronavirus, especially in the early days of the outbreak, played a significant role in turning what could have been a local epidemic into a global pandemic,” said McCaul.
The report concludes that it “is highly likely the ongoing pandemic could have been prevented,” and that the CCP could have prevented 95 percent of cases in China if they had acted differently.
An appendix of the report includes a timeline that contends CCP officials failed to notify the WHO about the details of the virus in a timely and requisite manner and that the CCP intentionally suppressed information about the virus.
According to the report, the virus is believed to have first infected humans in the Chinese city of Wuhan in November 2019.
The report notes that the health and intelligence communities agree that the virus likely originated naturally, but acknowledges the hypothesis of some experts that the virus originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Purportedly, in early January, Chinese officials censored institutions from publishing information about the “unknown disease,” had samples of the virus destroyed, allowed massive travel throughout Wuhan, and closed down a Shanghai lab that leaked the gene sequence of the virus.
With respect to the CCP, the report recommends that the United States join an international investigation with other WHO member states and Taiwan to determine the extent of the CCP’s alleged cover-up.
But the report is not only critical of the CCP. It also sharply criticizes the WHO and its current director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The report states that in light of Tedros’ alleged “full-throated defense of the CCP’s response and embrace of their revisionist history,” he should resign.
“[U]nfortunately, the World Health Organization under the leadership of Director General Tedros only exacerbated the problem by repeatedly ignoring warnings about the severity of the virus, including from their own health experts, while at the same time parroting the CCP’s propaganda without independently confirming their claims,” said McCaul.
“This was a failure of monumental proportions and it is imperative that we uncover the truth so we can set up future safeguards to prevent this from happening yet again,” he added.
The report alleges that the WHO failed to adequately investigate concerns raised by Taiwan to the international organization on December 31, 2019 about potential human-to-human transmissions of the virus.
On January 14, 2020, the WHO infamously tweeted, “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel [coronavirus].”
A little over a week later, the organization decided against declaring a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) with Tedros stating,“At this time, there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission outside China, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.”
The report contends that there had been transmissions outside of China at the time of Tedros’ statement and that the delay in declaring a PHEIC “contributed to a regional epidemic turning into a pandemic.”
In addition to calling for Tedros’ resignation, the report also recommends reforms to international health regulations that would close loopholes that potentially played a role in the failure to contain the virus.
Notably, the recommendations are much more tempered in contrast with threats from President Trump to withdraw the United States completely from the WHO.
“While I join the president in his frustration with the WHO under Tedros’ leadership, I think we can affect more change within the organization as a member,” McCaul told CNN.
The China Task Force that McCaul is leading will examine potential policy recommendations on a wide range of issues regarding US-China relations. Another report on those recommendations is expected to be released this fall.
The other articles in this series on approaches to US-China relations by members of the Texas delegation include:
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.