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Medical journal refutes Trump claim it published reports about earlier spread of Covid-19 in China

The Lancet described the allegations made by Trump in a letter to the WHO as “serious and damaging”.

Image: Pool/ABACA

THE LANCET MEDICAL journal has refuted a claim made by US President Donald Trump that it published a report in December referring to an outbreak of Covid-19 in Wuhan, China.

Yesterday, Trump shared a letter he wrote to Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, about a review his administration conducted into the WHO’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

President Trump wrote that “we know the following” and the first allegation he makes is that 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,” he wrote.

Today, the Lancet said “this statement is factually incorrect”.

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“The Lancet published no report in December, 2019, referring to a virus or outbreak in Wuhan or anywhere else in China. The first reports the journal published were on January 24, 2020,” the journal said in a statement. 

In a paper by Chaolin Huang and colleagues, the first 41 patients from Wuhan with COVID-19 were described. The scientists and physicians who led this study were all from Chinese institutions. They worked with us to quickly make information about this new epidemic outbreak and the disease it caused fully and freely available to an international audience.
A second paper, from Jasper Chan and colleagues, also published on January 24, described the first scientific evidence confirming person-to-person transmission of the new virus. This report included scientists and physicians from Hong Kong and mainland China.

The Lancet said the allegations levelled against the WHO in this letter from President Trump 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.”

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