The Lancet Denies Trump's Claims In His Latest Attack On The World Health Organization


Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockMay 19 2020, 18:54 UTC

Evan El-Amin/Shutterstock

So far, over 1,510,000 people in the US have caught Covid-19 and around 90,000 people have perished – about 28 percent of deaths worldwide.


Many believe the Trump administration has been underestimating the gravity of the pandemic. Trump claims the fault lies with the World Health Organization (WHO) and in mid-April decided to cut US funding to the international body. On May 18, Trump went on the attack again, tweeting the letter he sent to Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the WHO. 

The administration's first allegation in the letter is that the WHO “consistently ignored credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019 or even earlier, including reports from the Lancet medical journal. The World Health Organization failed to independently investigate credible reports that conflicted directly with the Chinese government’s official accounts, even those that came from sources within Wuhan itself.”

In a press statement, The Lancet declared Trump's statements as false. The medical journal never published a report about SARS-CoV2, the new coronavirus, in December. In fact, they did not publish anything related to a new virus or outbreak in Wuhan until late-January.

“This statement is factually incorrect. The Lancet published no report in December 2019, referring to a virus or outbreak in Wuhan or anywhere else in China,” states the journal. “The allegations leveled against WHO in President Trump’s letter are serious and damaging to efforts to strengthen international cooperation to control this pandemic. It is essential that any review of the global response is based on a factually accurate account of what took place in December and January.”


The first two reports published by The Lancet are both from January 24, 2020. The first concerns the first 41 patients with Covid-19 from Wuhan and the second provides the first scientific evidence confirming person-to-person transmission of the SARS-CoV-2. The contents of the second were announced by the WHO in an official report on January 23.

The WHO declared Covid-19 a global health emergency on January 30. The US moved to declare it a Public Health Emergency on February 1. The following week, the administration was accused of inaction by senators. Throughout February and March, Trump announced that the coronavirus was “very much under control”, that it would disappear in April, and that it was comparable to the seasonal flu (none of which are factually accurate). 

The Lancet published an editorial last week condemning the administration's response to Covid-19: "The Administration is obsessed with magic bullets – vaccines, new medicines, or a hope that the virus will simply disappear. But only a steadfast reliance on basic public health principles, like test, trace, and isolate, will see the emergency brought to an end, and this requires an effective national public health agency."


They concluded with a call to action to vote Trump out of office: "The Trump administration's further erosion of the CDC will harm global cooperation in science and public health, as it is trying to do by defunding WHO. A strong CDC is needed to respond to public health threats, both domestic and international, and to help prevent the next inevitable pandemic. Americans must put a president in the White House come January, 2021, who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics."