May 19, 2020 - Health

Medical journal calls claim in Trump's letter to WHO "factually incorrect"

President trump sitting at a table
Photo: Doug Mills - Pool/Getty Images

The Lancet medical journal issued a statement Tuesday responding to a letter President Trump sent to the World Health Organization about the coronavirus, calling his citation of its studies "factually incorrect."

The big picture: In a letter sent to the WHO's director-general on Monday, Trump claimed the global health agency “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 Lancet said in a statement that it did not publish any papers on a virus or outbreak in Wuhan or China in the month of December.

  • The Lancet's statement said its first report on the novel coronavirus in Wuhan was published on Jan. 24 by scientists and physicians from Chinese institutions.
  • A second paper, also published Jan. 24, described the first scientific evidence confirming person-to-person transmission. It included scientists and physicians from Hong Kong and mainland China, according to the journal.

What they're saying:

"The allegations levelled 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 Lancet said in a statement Tuesday

Background: Trump threatened a permanent freeze of U.S. funds to the WHO and withdrawal from membership if the agency "does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days."

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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