The World Health Organization (WHO) on Saturday rejected reports in Der Spiegel, a German news magazine, that Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and President Xi Jinping of China spoke on the phone on January 21, 2020, and discussed how to downplay the severity of the novel coronavirus.
The reports claimed that Chinese President Xi Jinping requested the World Health Organization to downplay the severity of the coronavirus outbreak.
Der Spiegel quoted Germany’s federal intelligence agency as reportedly making the claim. According to the publication, Xi personally requested the WHO chief on January 21 to delay the message about the disease and downplay the seriousness of the threat.
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But the WHO said the reports were “unfounded and untrue” as both men have never spoken by phone and such a conversation never took place.
“Der Spiegel reports of a January 21, 2020, telephone conversation between Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and President Xi Jinping of China are unfounded and untrue,” WHO said in a statement received by TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington D.C.
“Dr Tedros and President Xi did not speak on Jan. 21 and they have never spoken by phone.
“Such inaccurate reports distract and detract from WHO’s and the world’s efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic,” the WHO media team added.
It noted that China confirmed human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus on Jan. 20.
Der Spiegel is a centre-left German weekly news magazine published in Hamburg. With a weekly circulation of 840,000 copies, it is the largest such publication in Europe.
The WHO recently outlined the timeline of the coronavirus response since the potentially deadly bug, which has killed more than 200,000 people around the world, emerged in China late in December.
Nowhere was there a mention of a telephone conversation on January 21 between President Xi and Dr. Tedros. The reports suggested that WHO and China were being economical with the truth and may have connived to downplay the severity of the crisis.
President Donald Trump, whose family has root in Germany, has been attempting to shift blame to the WHO for his bungled coronavirus response that has left about 80,000 Americans dead and more than one million others infected.