In the first days after the Chinese authorities found out that the country has faced since the beginning of the pandemic in Wuhan — the epicenter of the original outbreak, a mass Banquet, which was attended by tens of thousands of people, and thousands of Chinese are freely dispersed throughout the country to celebrate the Chinese New year, reported AP News.
Chinese President XI Jinping made an official statement about the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan only the 20th of January, on the seventh day after this information came to the authorities. But by the time the virus has already infected more than 3 thousand people. This is evidenced by government documents at the disposal of the Associated Press.
China is not the only country whose authorities made a fatal mistake, losing the most important thing in a situation of a pandemic — time. Many authorities did not take active action for several weeks and even months. However, Beijing remained inactive at the critical moment – at the beginning of the outbreak. The attempts of Chinese authorities to prevent panic paved the way for the emergence of a global pandemic, which resulted in the coronavirus has infected nearly 2 million people, of which more than 138 thousand died.
According to TSO-Feng Zhang, epidemiologist at the University of California in Los Angeles, “if they [the Chinese authorities] took action six days earlier, patients would be much less… We could avoid the collapse of the medical system in Wuhan”.
However, other experts believe that the Chinese government has been slow to warn of the outbreak of world community to avoid a mass hysteria, at the same time, quickly taking action, but not making them public.
Six days, during which Beijing officials remained silent about the outbreak of a new disease, has fallen for two weeks from 5 to 17 January, when the national centre for disease control have not received any messages from the city of Wuhan, according to the service bulletins at the disposal of edition of the Associated Press. However, during this time, hundreds of patients infected COVID-19, were hospitalized not only in Wuhan but also throughout the country.
The full picture of what was happening at the moment in China, it is still not clear. However, according to experts, one thing is clear — the rigid control of information in China, bureaucracy and reluctance to tell the boss bad news prevented infection control at the initial stage of the outbreak. The plot of eight doctors punished for “spreading rumors”, which was broadcast on national TV on 2 January, scared the staff of the local hospitals.
“Doctors in Wuhan was afraid,” says Dali Yang, a researcher of Chinese politics at the University of Chicago.
Jan 13, in Thailand identified its first case of infection outside of China. Only after that, the Chinese government began implementing a national plan to identify cases of infection with coronavirus, the distribution of test sets, simplify the algorithm of diagnosis and giving orders to managers of the health system to examine the patients. And all this was done in secret from a wide obshestvennosti.
In the early days of the outbreak, the official Beijing has repeatedly denied reports about the withholding of information, claiming that all data is immediately transmitted to the world health organization. However, the facts show that on 14 January the head of the National Commission of health of China MA Saova had a confidential conference call with the leadership of the Department of health of Hubei province, which assessed the situation. The Memorandum States that the teleconference was held for transmission to the authorities of the province of instructions from the President XI Jinping, Prime Minister Li Keqiang and Vice-Premier sun Chunlan, but did not specify what it was for the user.
“The epidemic situation is still severe and complicated, is the most serious situation since the outbreak of SARS (ed: SARS) in 2003”, the statement reads MA Sabaa.
A teleconference was held due to the cases in Thailand, and in connection with the possible spread of the virus during the Christmas travel of residents of the PRC. MA Saova added that China released information about the outbreak “openly, transparently, responsibly and in a timely manner” in accordance with “important instructions”, repeatedly voiced by President XI.
The Memorandum States that “clustered cases suggest that the virus can be transmitted from person to person”.
“With the approaching Spring festival, many people will travel, and the risk of transmission and spread of the virus is high, – stated in the document, All localities should prepare for a pandemic and to respond to it.” The Memorandum also States that the key priorities are the “political considerations and social stability” on the eve of the March sessions of the Supreme legislative body of China. Perhaps that is why Chinese leaders waited six days before to publish information on the epidemic, for fear of “rocking the boat” on the eve of the March sessions of the legislature.
Already on January 15 Beijing organized working groups engaged in information gathering and the training of medical workers, and also obliged the authorities of Hubei province, whose capital is Wuhan, start checking the body temperature of passengers at the transportation hubs and reduced mass event. Instructions for physicians was marked as “official documents” not intended for publication on the Internet and other open sources of information.
However, in the words of officials continued to downplay the scale of the outbreak, saying that it was only 41 cases. January 15 the head of the China Center for disease prevention said that “the risk of sustained transmission of the virus from person to person is low”.
January 20, XI Jinping for the first time publicly commented on the situation with COVID-19, stating the seriousness of the outbreak, and the chief epidemiologist of the Chinese for the first time said that the virus may still be transmitted from person to person. If people are warned about the need for social distancing and the wearing of masks at six days earlier, the number of cases could be reduced by two thirds, experts are convinced.
Screenshot: President XI Jinping before the members of the Chinese government. Sky News/YouTube
This information indirectly confirms the words of the President of the United States Donald trump, who openly accused the Chinese government of withholding information about the outbreak, which led to a global pandemic. However, on 20 January, when Beijing announced the beginning of the epidemic, the US still had in stock two months to prepare you to fight the virus.
The doctors and nurses in Wuhan reported to the Chinese journalists that there are many signs that the coronavirus can be transmitted between people, even at the end of December. The virus by the time infected patients who have never been to the seafood market in Wuhan, a place where, as experts suspect, and could Harbor the coronavirus. Then appeared the first cases of infection among health care workers. However, the officials of the country had hampered the dissemination of information from doctors, punishing them for their public messages about the outbreak and artificially slowing down the process of diagnosis. Few weeks after the seriousness of the epidemic became apparent, some Chinese experts accused the government of Wuhan intentionally concealing the real situation
“I always suspected that this virus is transmitted from person to person,” said van Guanfa 15 March, the head of one of the group of experts who visited Wuhan. He contracted COVID-19 on 16 January, shortly after returning to Beijing from Wuhan.
The then mayor of Wuhan Zhou Sanyuan blamed national rules for access to classified information. As a result, it seems, it so happened that the leadership of China for a really long time remained in the dark about the true extent of the epidemic.
After registration of the first case in Thailand and the development of the national plan response to the situation, the number of cases in Wuhan immediately began to grow from four cases 17 January to 136 in two days. Dozens of cases have become a daily register throughout the country.
18 January in a luxury Beijing Union hospital medical school, held an emergency meeting where staff was instructed about the necessity of strict isolation of patients – this happened before the speech of President XI. An expert in the field of health told the Associated Press on January 19 to visit the hospital, built during the SARS outbreak where emergency medical personnel equipped with hundreds of new beds for patients with pneumonia.
“All in the field of infectious diseases know that something is happening…”, – said the expert, who declined to give his name, fearing to thwart the secret consultation in the government.