The Truth on the So-called "China covering-up the COVID-19
and therefore delaying other country's response"
|--Reality Check of US Allegations Against China on COVID-19 (III)|
Allegation 6: China's initial cover-up and delayed release of information resulted in the spread of the virus.
Reality Check: What has happened is an unexpected attack by an unknown virus against human beings. It takes time to study and understand it. China has provided timely information to the world in an open, transparent and responsible manner.
◆ On 27 December 2019, Dr. Zhang Jixian, director of the respiratory and critical care medicine department of Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine, reported three cases of pneumonia of unknown cause immediately after receiving the patients. This was the first reporting of suspected cases of a new disease by local authorities of China. On the same day, the Wuhan CDC conducted epidemiological investigation and testing on the patients concerned.
◆ On 30 December 2019, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission issued two emergency notices on the reporting and treatment of pneumonia of unknown cause.
◆ On 31 December 2019, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission released a situation report on pneumonia of unknown cause in Wuhan. On the same day, China informed the WHO China Country Office of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan.
◆ On 3 January 2020, China began sending regular, timely updates about the novel coronavirus to WHO, other countries including the United States, and China's Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan regions. Between 3 January and 3 February, China updated the US 30 times on the epidemic situation and its response measures.
◆ Following the first public reporting of the pneumonia by the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission on 31 December 2019, China completed the identification and sequencing of the virus as early as on 7 January 2020, and shared the genome sequence information with WHO and other countries on 11 January. On 10 January, the Wuhan Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and other professional institutions developed preliminary testing kits, and stepped up research on vaccines and effective medication. On 20 January, the National Health Commission designated the new coronavirus pneumonia as a statutory infectious disease. On 24 January, COVID-19 cases began to be directly reported online.
◆ In contrast to China's response measures, the US government had not declared a national emergency until 13 March, 70 days after it was notified by China of the new virus on 3 January 2020, 40 days after it closed its borders on 2 February to all Chinese citizens and foreign nationals who had traveled in China within 14 days.
◆ On 1 May, the US CDC posted on its website a report drafted by its Principal Deputy Director Dr. Anne Schuchat and COVID-19 Response Team.
According to the report, after "the first confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) case in the United States was reported on January 21, 2020", the "outbreak appeared contained through February, and then accelerated rapidly." It notes that "various factors contributed to accelerated spread during February -- March 2020, including continued travel-associated importations, large gatherings, introductions into high-risk workplaces and densely populated areas, and cryptic transmission resulting from limited testing and asymptomatic and presymptomatic spread."
Allegation 7: China arrested Dr. Li Wenliang, a whistle-blower, to cover up the spread of the virus.
Reality Check: Dr. Li Wenliang was not a whistle-blower, and he was not arrested.
◆All countries have strict rules on the confirmation of infectious diseases. This is a common practice.
◆ China's Law on Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases has established strict approval procedures and rules for the reporting, verification and information release of an infectious disease.
◆ Dr. Zhang Jixian, a respiratory doctor, was the first to report COVID-19 cases, and was awarded for this contribution.
◆ On the afternoon of 30 December 2019 (three days after Dr. Zhang Jixian reported cases of unknown infection and one day before Wuhan released the relevant information), Dr. Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist, sent a message to his alumni WeChat group. He claimed that there were "seven confirmed SARS cases", and asked the group not to spread the information. However, leaked screenshots of the conversation spread quickly on the Internet and caused panic.
On 3 January 2020, Wuhan's local police authorities asked Dr. Li to a police station for inquiry, and urged him to stop spreading unconfirmed information by issuing him a letter of reprimand.
In mid-January, Dr. Li started to show symptoms of infection. And on 31 January, he was confirmed to be infected by COVID-19.
On 7 February, Dr. Li passed away after all rescue measures were exhausted. On the same day, the National Health Commission publicly expressed condolences over his death. The National Supervisory Commission decided to send an inspection group to Wuhan to investigate issues related to Dr. Li.
On 19 March, the inspection group released its findings and held a press briefing. Wuhan's Public Security Bureau announced the decision on the matter, pointing to the misapplication of relevant legal provisions in Dr. Li's case, and revoked the reprimand letter.
◆ Dr. Li Wenliang was a good doctor. He was a member of the Communist Party of China, not a so-called "anti-establishment figure". On 5 March, he was named a "national model healthcare worker in fighting COVID-19". On 2 April, he was honored as a martyr.
Labeling Dr. Li Wenliang as an "anti-establishment hero" or "awakener" is very disrespectful to Dr. Li and his family. It is purely political manipulation with no sense of decency. On 28 April, the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China and the All-China Youth Federation jointly issued the 24th "May Fourth Medals" to honor outstanding representatives and role models of Chinese youths, and Dr. Li Wenliang was among the honorees. The Independent Media Institute conducted a thorough investigation on how the media made unjust reporting about Dr. Li, and concluded that the attempt of Western media to describe what happened to Dr. Li as evidence of the Chinese government's suppression of information about the virus is simply not logical.
Allegation 8: China was too late in disclosing information about human-to-human transmission. As a result, the US and the rest of the world had not gained enough knowledge about how contagious and deadly the virus was and therefore failed to respond quickly enough.
Reality Check: The messages from China and the World Health Organization have been timely and strong. The US knows about the danger of the virus all along.
◆ It takes a rigorous scientific process to determine whether a new virus can be transmitted from person to person.
On 9 January, a Chinese expert group had already confirmed on the media that the pathogen was preliminarily determined as a novel coronavirus.
On 20 January, the high-level expert group of the National Health Commission informed the media that the novel coronavirus could be transmitted from person to person. On that day, the US reported no confirmed case.
On 23 January, China sent a powerful warning to the world by putting Wuhan, a city of 12 million people, under lockdown. On that day, the US reported only one case.
◆On 22 January, WHO issued a warning about the potential risk of human-to-human transmission on its website.
On 27 January, WHO raised the level of risk posed by COVID-19 at a global level from moderate to high, noting the risk to be very high in China and high at a regional level.
On 30 January, the WHO International Health Regulations Emergency Committee held a meeting and declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
◆The US was the first country to pull out personnel from its consulate-general in Wuhan and the first to announce entry restrictions on all Chinese citizens:
As early as on 25 January, the US announced the decision to close its consulate-general in Wuhan and pull out its staff;
On 2 February, the US announced the decision to close borders to all Chinese citizens and foreign nationals who had been to China within the prior 14 days, while it only had eight reported cases on that day.
◆It was not until early March that the US government seriously acknowledged the danger and severity of the spread of the virus in the country.
◆In an opinion article, Jeffrey Sachs, a renowned US economist and Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, criticized the US government for making reckless charges against China, calling them illogical and dangerous. He said that the US government's claim that China is the cause of America's problems is a big lie and recalls the end of McCarthy era.
◆The Taiwan authorities claimed that its CDC had warned WHO of the existence of human-to-human transmission of COVID-19 in an email at the end of December 2019, but WHO withheld this information from the world. In response to this allegation, Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, clarified on 4 May that the email sent from Taiwan on 31 December 2019 was not a warning, but a request for more information on cases of atypical pneumonia reported by news sources.
Allegation 9: China could have contained the virus within Wuhan in the first place. However, it allowed many of its nationals to fly to Milan, New York and other places, spreading the virus to the rest of the world.
Reality Check: China took the most stringent measures within the shortest possible time, which has largely kept the virus within Wuhan. Statistics show that very few cases were exported from China.
◆ The Chinese government took the most comprehensive, rigorous and thorough measures in a timely fashion, and effectively broke the chain of transmission. According to a Science report, thanks to these measures, the number of infections in China was reduced by more than 700,000.
◆ China put Wuhan under a temporary lockdown as of 23 January, meaning that there were no outbound commercial flights or train services from 24 January through 8 April. So it was impossible for Wuhan residents to travel overseas during this period of time.
◆ When Wuhan was shut down on 23 January, only one case was publicly confirmed in the US. When the US closed its borders on 2 February to all Chinese citizens and foreigners who had been to China within the previous 14 days, there were only eight confirmed cases in the US according to its official data. When the US declared a national emergency on 13 March, the number of its confirmed cases was 1,896. When China lifted the lockdown on Wuhan on 8 April, the number of confirmed cases in the US rose to 400,000. At present, confirmed cases in the US have exceeded 1.2 million, with as many as over 70,000 deaths so far. Looking back, it took less than 100 days for the number of confirmed cases to surge from one to one million in the United States.
◆ New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pointed to a research by the Northeastern University showing that strains of the novel coronavirus entered his state were not from China. The New York Times cited US research that most New York coronavirus cases did not come from Asia.
◆ Data from Canada's major provinces show that the virus was brought into the country by US visitors. The French research institute Institut Pasteur found that the virus strain circulating locally in France is of unknown origin. None of the imported cases in Russia was from China. The Australian Department of Health noted that only a very small portion of imported cases came from Northeast Asia. In Singapore, cases imported from China were less than one-tenth of those from other countries. The Japanese National Institute of Infectious Diseases believed that the strain confirmed in Japan since early March was not from China.