New WHO chief scientist praised lockdowns and China’s COVID policies

World Health Organization
The logo of the World Health Organization is seen at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, June 11, 2009. The World Health Organization held an emergency swine flu meeting Thursday and was likely to declare the first flu pandemic in 41 years as infections climbed in the United States, Europe, Australia, South America and elsewhere. (Anja Niedringhaus/AP)

New WHO chief scientist praised lockdowns and China’s COVID policies

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As the world moves on from the coronavirus pandemic, one of the most ardent lockdown proponents appears to have been rewarded.

The World Health Organization announced last week that Jeremy Farrar will be joining the organization as its new chief scientist in the second quarter of 2023, replacing Soumya Swaminathan, who left the agency in November.


As chief scientist, the WHO announcement stated Farrar “will oversee the Science Division, bringing together the best brains in science and innovation from around the world to develop and deliver high-quality health services to the people who need them most, no matter who they are and where they live.”

Speaking of Farrar and another recent WHO appointee, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was quoted in the announcement as saying he was delighted Farrar and the other appointee was joining the WHO at “a critical time in global public health when investment in both the health workforce and science is imperative to strengthening health systems and outbreak preparedness and prevention.”

Controversially, however, over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Farrar made numerous comments supportive of harsh lockdown measures in China and around the world.

In January 2020, Farrar tweeted, “China is setting a new standard for outbreak response and deserves all our thanks. This is an unprecedented epidemic, it needs an unprecedented response.”

Since then, in various interviews, Farrar has lamented that the U.K. did not learn from China and follow its lead early in the pandemic by locking down sooner, and has expressed dismay his country failed to do more to reduce transmission in the autumn of 2020.

Significantly, some of these remarks have come even after more restrictive COVID mitigation measures have been found to have little impact.

More recently, Farrar has been quoted by STAT as saying, “I think we’ve moved on too quickly” and “I don’t think we would go back to March 2020. … But I do think we’re playing with fire with this level of community transmission,” suggesting he believes some restrictions are warranted even as we enter 2023.

Additionally, Farrar and several other public health and medical professionals, in a joint statement published online by the Lancet in February 2020, commended the work China was doing to control the virus while condemning those suggesting COVID-19 may have escaped from a lab.

“The rapid, open, and transparent sharing of data on this outbreak is now being threatened by rumours and misinformation around its origins,” they wrote. “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.”

But these public sentiments contrast starkly with private email exchanges Farrar had with former NIH Director Francis Collins and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, in which he notably described viral research in China as the “Wild West.”

“On a spectrum if 0 is nature and 100 is release [from a lab] – I am honestly at 50!” Farrar wrote in February 2020. “My guess is that this will remain grey, unless there is access to the Wuhan lab – and I suspect that is unlikely!”

Whether Farrar will operate with a similar lack of transparency once he assumes his new WHO position remains to be seen. However, his appointment should trouble those who do not wish to see lockdowns imposed by bureaucrats operating behind closed doors in response to each new disease.


Daniel Nuccio is a Ph.D. student in biology and a regular contributor to the College Fix and the Brownstone Institute.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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