Do you think China knew of the virus, before reporting to the World Health Organization (WHO)? That’s the first question I would ask, before anything else. SARS-CoV-2, or what we know now as COVID-19, wasn’t identified even though there were cases of patients being ill with “pneumonia-like symptoms”. According to a WHO report published to (Cluster of Pneumonia Cases in China) their website, they claim that China had already identified the a novel virus that causes pneumonia like symptoms, yet not as severe as the MERS or SARS strand of coronaviruses. On January 3rd, China was already looking into 27 cases of this viral infection, that China rumoured to be another outbreak of SARS, and in the central city of Wuhan, 44 cases that have already been reported. In addition to these cases, China had reported cases of an unknown pneumonia like virus before, on December 31st.
Come January 5th of this year, the reoccurrence of a SARS outbreak was ruled out. On January 7th, China had announced the identification of a new virus, named 2019-nCoV, belonging to the corona virus family. Yet, on January 11th, China had recorded its first death from the virus, a 61 year old man who visited a seafood market. This is where these events get tricky for me, on January 13th there was a case reported in Thailand, outside of China.
The case in Thailand would mark the first one that was outside of China. On January 17th a second death from the disease was reported in Wuhan, and the US announced that it would start screening passengers from that city. Authorities in the US, Nepal, France, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan also had confirmed cases in the following days. January 20th, China reports a third death and more than 200 new infections, with case outside the Hubei province including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. A Chinese expert, Zhong Nanshan, had confirmed that human to human transmission is possible to China Central Television (CCTV) state broadcaster, even after Wuhan authorities maintained that there was no clear evidence to support human-to-human transmission and that the virus is “preventable and controllable” (Dr. Zhog Nanshan on COVID-19 – CNN I’ve never been to Lunar New Year celebrations in China, even though my good friend urges me that it’s a good time, it occurs on the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar (between 21 January and 20 February). This year It had landed on Saturday, January 25th. (Al Jazeera Timeline of COVID-19 Spread
Did China have more than enough information to at least issue a statement to the public before millions of people gathered to celebrate? They should have, even when the WHO issued a state menr on January 22nd there was evidence of human-to-human transmission, instead of waiting until January 30th, where the Chinese President, Xi Jinping warned the public of a virus lurking among them, yet based on reports obtained by The Associated Press and retrospective infection data estimates, there were already 3000 people infected. The decision to delay warning of the virus, the critical point to birthing the global pandemic, the Lunar New Year celebration was our event horizon.
How does the WHO issue a statement report that gives a risk assessment for China as very high and high at the global level, why did they wait until this point? (WHO Timeline of COVID-19 Events)
If you’re still not convinced that there are problems with the Government of China, take the Chinese whistleblower, Dr. Li Wenliang The Chinese doctor tried to warn other medics through a group chat of a new SARS like illness in early December. Authorities had punished Dr. Wenliang for rumour spreading, along with 8 others had been detained for the same accusation, although Li was not clearly implicated in those.
The Chinese Government knew, at least some parts of the government had substantial amount information not to at least issue a warning, yet, there’s a slight catch. The original thought that the virus couldn’t be transmitted human to human. Yet Li Wenliang contracted the virus a week after being released, being diagnosed at the end of January and then ultimately met his demise in early February. It was noted that the officials wrongfully punished Dr. Wenliang, by the Chinese Communist Party’s internal anti-corruption body and the country’s largest anti-corruption agency, Li had not disrupted the public order, yet the findings he reported were not verified before sending it and the findings were “not consistent with the actual situation at the time”.
“They don’t like to tell the truth” says Dr. Zhong Nanshan, speaking of the Government in China. Zhong Nanshan, the Chinese government’s senior medical adviser whom reported to CCTV that human-to-human transmission was possible, said to CNN in an exclusive interview on May 16th, that official in Wuhan had surpressed key details about the magnitude of the initial outrbreaks in early December.
There was information of the virus spreading since early December, of last year. But since that time little was done about it. Do you feel that China is living up to their end of the bargain? The Chinese government has a lot to answer for, and there needs to be an inquiry soon, before China tries to cover up their mistake or pretend like nothing happened. This is a governance problem, whether it be China the country or just individual cities or provinces. So much could have been done, yet wasn’t, China could have acted sooner, we didn’t have to kill 336, 000 people and disrupt the lives of the world just to test our responses to a pandemic.