In Hunt for Virus Source, W.H.O. Let China Take Charge

As it praised Beijing, the World Health Organization concealed concessions to China and may have sacrificed the best chance to unravel the virus’s origins. Now it’s a favorite Trump attack line.


GENEVA — On a cold weekend in mid-February, when the world still harbored false hope that the new coronavirus could be contained, a World Health Organization team arrived in Beijing to study the outbreak and investigate a critical question: How did the virus jump from animals to humans?

At that point, there were only three confirmed deaths from Covid-19 outside China and scientists hoped that finding an animal source for the coronavirus would unlock clues about how to stop it, treat it and prevent similar outbreaks.

“If we don’t know the source then we’re equally vulnerable in the future to a similar outbreak,” Michael Ryan, the World Health Organization’s emergency director, had said that week in Geneva. “Understanding that source is a very important next step.”

What the team members did not know was that they would not be allowed to investigate the source at all. Despite Dr. Ryan’s pronouncements, and over the advice of its emergency committee, the organization’s leadership had quietly negotiated terms that sidelined its own experts. They would not question China’s initial response or even visit the live-animal market in the city of Wuhan where the outbreak seemed to have originated.

Nine months and more than 1.1 million deaths later, there is still no transparent, independent investigation into the source of the virus. Notoriously allergic to outside scrutiny, China has impeded the effort, while leaders of the World Health Organization, if privately frustrated, have largely ceded control, even as the Trump administration has fumed.

From the earliest days of the outbreak, the World Health Organization — the only public health body with a global remit — has been both indispensable and impotent. The Geneva-based agency has delivered key information about testing, treatment and vaccine science. When the Trump administration decided to develop its own test kits, rather than rely on the W.H.O. blueprint, the botched result led to delays.

At the same time, the health organization pushed misleading and contradictory information about the risk of spread from symptomless carriers. Its experts were slow to accept that the virus could be airborne. Top health officials encouraged travel as usual, advice that was based on politics and economics, not science.

The W.H.O.’s staunchest defenders note that, by the nature of its constitution, it is beholden to the countries that finance it. And it is hardly the only international body bending to China’s might. But even many of its supporters have been frustrated by the organization’s secrecy, its public praise for China and its quiet concessions. Those decisions have indirectly helped Beijing to whitewash its early failures in handling the outbreak.

Now, as a new Covid-19 wave engulfs Europe and the United States, the organization is in the middle of a geopolitical standoff.

China’s authoritarian

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This Black Friday Fitbit Charge 4 deal at Amazon takes fitness tracker to its lowest ever price

Fitbit Charge 4 Special Edition is the best fitness tracker this market-leading brand makes. It’s always good value at under £150, but this deal takes it down to just £130 for one day only. It’s unlikely it will get much cheaper than that, even when the best Black Friday deals are unveiled at the end of November.

• Buy Fitbit Charge 4 Special Edition at Amazon, on sale for £129.99 – was £149.99, so you save £20 at Amazon

The Charge 4 Special Edition is functionally identical to the excellent Charge 4 but has a more premium finish. If you want a standard Charge 4, that is also discounted today and can be bought for £119.99 (£10 off RRP).

Fitbit Charge 4 Special Edition £129.99 | Was £149.99 | Save £20 at Amazon
The Fitbit Charge 4 Special Edition has all the features of the standard edition, but is made from more premium materials and boasts a nicer strap. It tracks heart rate 24/7, estimates your calories burned and monitors sleep. Unlike most older, lesser Fitbits it has GPS built in to track runs, hikes and bike rides, plus a blood oxygen sensor to track… blood oxygen. Deal ends today.View Deal

Today’s best Fitbit Charge 4 deals

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Why should you buy the Fitbit Charge 4 

Unlike its predecessor, the Fitbit Charge 4 comes with built-in GPS so you can track your activities more precisely without needing to have your phone on you all the time. Should you want to have your phone on you, you can also use the Fitbit Charge 4 to control Spotify from your wrist.

The improved Active Zone Minutes system tracks your activity levels even when you are not using a sport mode on the fitness tracker. This can give you a better understanding of just how ‘active’ you were during the day/week and prioritises exercise that really elevates your heart rate. Less strenuous activities are also tracked of course if you’re more focussed on doing your 10,000 steps per day.

The Fitbit Charge 4 has a battery life of ‘up to’ 7 days – dependent on GPS usage – and you can pay in shops with it thanks to the Fitbit Pay feature. This water resistant fitness tracker monitors your heart rate 24/7, counts calorie burned, and has 15+ pre-loaded exercise profiles. You can track your goals all day, then have it monitor and rate your sleep at night.

It also utilises the excellent Fitbit App, where you can further scrutinise your fitness and weight loss progress using easy-to-understand charts and graphs. Smartwatch-style notifications are also included.

Yet more Fitbit deals

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