A bombshell report claims China "urged" the World Health Organisation to "delay a global warning" about the coronavirus outbreak.

The report in German news outlet Der Spiegel claims Chinese President Xi Jinping personally asked WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom to hold off issuing a warning about the threat of Covid-19 during a conversation back in January, Daily Mail reported.

Der Spiegel cited intelligence from the country's Federal Intelligence Service, known as the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND).

According to the BND: "On January 21, China's leader Xi Jinping asked WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to hold back information about a human-to-human transmission and to delay a pandemic warning.

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"The BND estimates that China's information policy lost four to six weeks to fight the virus worldwide."

The WHO released a statement shortly after the publication of the shock claims, calling them "unfounded and untrue".

In a series of tweets, the WHO clarified that there was never a phone call between chief Tedros and Xi Jinping.

"Dr Tedros and President Xi did not speak on January 21 and they have never spoken by phone. Such inaccurate reports distract and detract from WHO's and the world's efforts to end the Covid-19 pandemic," the statement read.

It continued: "China confirmed human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus on January 20 [prior to the alleged phone conversation].

"The WHO publicly declared on January 22 that 'data collected … suggests that human-to-human transmission is taking place in Wuhan'."

Back in April, the Trump Administration alleged the WHO was becoming a tool of "Chinese propaganda", and the President moved to halt funding of the organisation.

Last week, the President launched a fresh attack on the organisation during a Fox News virtual town hall meeting.

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"The World Health Organisation has been a disaster everything they said was wrong and they're China-centric," he stated at the event.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation. Photo / Getty Images
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation. Photo / Getty Images

"All they do is agree with China, whatever China wants to do. So our country, perhaps foolishly in retrospect has been paying US$450 million a year to the World Health Organisation and China's been paying US$38 million a year but they were more political than all of our leaders previously.

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"What they did, what World Health did, was they missed every single call and we're not going to put up with it."

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has hailed China as an exemplar of how to handle an emergency despite widespread scepticism of the country's official coronavirus death toll.

The four-page report dated May 1 that was obtained by the Associated Press notes that China downplayed the virus publicly but increased imports and decreased exports of medical supplies.

Huge backlog of protective equipment for export held up by bureaucracy in China. Video / Al Jazeera

The document accuses China of covering its tracks by "denying there were export restrictions and obfuscating and delaying provision of its trade data".

It lends weight to a leaked dossier drawn up by the Five Eyes intelligence alliance which describes how Beijing made whistleblowers "disappear", destroyed early virus samples and scrubbed the internet of any mention of the disease in the early stages.

More than four million people around the world have contracted the highly contagious virus, and at least 279,000 have died.

There are currently at least 1.3 million cases of coronavirus in the US and more than 79,000 deaths.

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