The World Health Organization quietly changed its timeline of the coronavirus pandemic’s first days on Tuesday, clarifying that the Chinese Communist Party never informed the organization of the pandemic on December 31, despite previous claims to the contrary.
In the new timeline, which the WHO says has been updated “in light of evolving events and new information,” the organization reveals that its Chinese Office “picked up” an online statement — which has since been deleted — made by the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission describing cases of “viral pneumonia.” The WHO says it also received open-source intelligence suggesting there was “pneumonia of unknown cause” in Wuhan.
The additions clarify the WHO’s previous timeline, which simply stated that on December 31, “Wuhan Municipal Health Commission, China, reported a cluster of cases of pneumonia in Wuhan” — implying the report was made to the WHO. In its initial report on the outbreak, the WHO said its China office “was informed” of the unknown pneumonia cases, without clarifying that the information was not provided by the Chinese Communist Party.
The lack of clarity led multiple outlets — including Axios, the Washington Post, and the BBC — to report that Chinese authorities told the WHO’s China office about the outbreak on December 31. But an interim report released last month by Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee scrutinized that claim, and argued the CCP never actually told the WHO about the outbreak.