China held back on a key scientific breakthrough in the earliest days of the fight against the novel coronavirus, according to a new investigation by the Associated Press. The World Health Organization repeatedly praised China’s response in the first stages of what became a global pandemic—but, behind the scenes, WHO officials were reportedly left frustrated by delays in getting their hands on critically important information. China reportedly waited for more than a week to release the genetic map of the virus after it was fully decoded by three Chinese labs. That delay may have stalled the recognition of the virus’ spread to other countries, and likely held back the global development of tests, drugs, and vaccines. Between the day the full genome was first decoded on Jan. 2 and the day the WHO declared a global emergency on Jan. 30, the outbreak spread by a factor of 100 to 200 times. According to AP, the delay was due to strict controls on information and internal competition within China’s public-health system.
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