China’s Inaccurate Reporting Caused Devastating Consequences Worldwide
Disinformation from the Chinese Communist Party is the reason world governments weren’t prepared for the scale of COVID-19.
A Timeline of Deception
The Chinese government is taking heavy international criticism for its failure to alert the global public about the dangers of the novel coronavirus before it ravaged the lives of millions across the globe.
New claims have been made with regards to when Chinese authorities understood the potential severity of the novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, and how long the government hid this critical information from the Chinese people and the world at large.
Late December, 2019: Early January, 2020
A four-page Department of Homeland Security intelligence report dated May 1, 2020, reveals that Chinese leaders “intentionally concealed the severity” of the pandemic from the world in early January.
The report indicates Chinese Communist Party officials hid the extent of the spreading virus for most of January- while simultaneously increasing imports and decreasing exports of medical supplies which would prove vital in the coming crisis.
The intelligence report dates this clear shift to early January, when the Chinese Communist Party began anticipating a pandemic they were still denying publicly.
During that time, the Chinese government increased its imports of surgical face masks by 278%; of surgical gowns by 72%; and of surgical gloves by 32%, according to a report from the Washington Examiner.
At the same time, the Chinese government abruptly decreased its exports of ventilators by 45%; intubation kits by 56%; thermometers by 53%; cotton balls and swabs by 58%; surgical gloves by 48%; surgical gowns by 71% and surgical face masks by 48%.
On Dec. 30, Dr. Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist in Wuhan sent a message a warning other doctors of “Seven confirmed cases of SARS,” and advising his fellow professionals to wear protective clothing.
Dr. Li later corrected himself, identifying the virus as an unspecified coronavirus.
In the following days, government officials visited Li and accused him of spreading rumors; “making false comments” that “severely disturbed the social order”.
Chinese Communist Party officials forced Li to sign a letter admitting he was spreading “untrue speech”.
“We solemnly warn you: If you keep being stubborn, with such impertinence, and continue this illegal activity, you will be brought to justice- is that understood?” — Chinese Public Security Bureau reprimand letter to Dr. Li Wenliang
Dr. Li signed the letter: “Yes, I do.” He was later to die of the illness himself.
Meanwhile, the general public remained unaware of the outbreak. Yet, a study in The Lancet shows that clusters of pneumonia cases were already spreading by human-to-human transmission in late December.
Chinese authorities did not contact the World Health Organization about these concerns until three weeks after doctors first started noticing cases.
January 14, 2020
The Associated Press reports- along with various other sources- allegations that Chinese officials had clear evidence of clusters caused by human-to-human transmission on January 14. They waited until January 20 to publicly confirm the risk of human-to-human transmission.
Until January 20, the Chinese government consistently made claims denying the risk of human-to-human transmission.
“Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in
Wuhan, China.” — The Chinese Communist Party
This dangerous and disingenuous claim was then reiterated and further amplified by the World Health Organization on Twitter. As a result, few governments around the world were or are currently prepared for the scale of the danger because of inaccurate and untimely information from Chinese authorities.
As unbelievable as it might seem, strong evidence even suggests the virus may have been initially seeded in a Wuhan Laboratory. A study posted a viral link which revealed horseshoe bats are not native to Wuhan and are not sold in the local wet market.
Instead, the probable origin of the virus is suspected to be the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Leaked cables show that U.S. Embassy officials strongly questioned safety at the Wuhan Institute of Virology lab two years ago. It is a facility where scientists conduct risky research on coronavirus in bats.
According to the leaked cables from 2018, U.S. scientists and diplomats were very worried about “a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory.”
The warned that sloppy safety protocols “represented a risk of a new SARS-like pandemic.”
“The cable tells us that there have long been concerns about the possibility of the threat to public health that came from this lab’s research, if it was not being adequately conducted or protected.”
“I don’t think it’s a conspiracy theory. I think it's a legitimate question that needs to be answered. To understand exactly how this originated is critical knowledge for preventing this from happening in the future.” — Xaio Qiang, research scientist. University of California at Berkeley
January 21, 2020
A day after the Chinese government finally confirmed the risk of human-to-human transmission of the virus, the Wuhan Institute of Virology applied for the patent on Remdesivir, the drug made by Gilead Sciences which is being used as a treatment for the deadly virus.
Gilead Sciences had already begun clinical trials of the drug at frontline hospitals in Wuhan and had offered to provide the drug for free to help Wuhan defeat the outbreak. China holds the patent on the drug through an agreement with Gilead’s drug patent sharing subsidiary branch called Unitaid.
Unitaid has an office in Wuhan, in the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.
A successful Chinese vaccine would certainly help deflect criticism from the Chinese Communist Party and of its early handling of the pandemic. Such a vaccine would serve medical as well as political purposes, increasing China’s capacity as a global scientific and medical power.
January 26, 2020
On Jan. 26, the Mayor of Wuhan, Zhou Xianwang, revealed that over 5 million residents left Wuhan before the lockdown. Wuhan was placed under lockdown and most travel in and out of the city had halted by Jan. 31.
But by this time, it was much too late to stop the spread of the outbreak to every corner of the globe. At this time the number of outbreaks was already growing in cities across China and in other countries, most seeded by travelers from Wuhan.
As we will see in the next part of this two-part series, two of China’s closest trading partners were the hardest hit by the virus in the days and weeks to follow.
(contributing writers, Allegra Nokaj and Brooke Bell)