After initially faltering in its response to curtail the spread of the deadly pathogen, the authoritarian regime in China employed sweeping restrictions to limit the dissemination of the virus. As the outbreak of the coronavirus dwindles in China, it has now set in motion a dangerous PR exercise to extricate itself from the accountability of the spread of the coronavirus while passing the buck on others, most notably the United States, for endangering humanity with the lethal virus.
While China’s government focuses its strength on deflecting the blame on others, its diplomats and media outlets are aggressively tossing out allegations of “racism” on those who link the virus’ origins to China. China has been peddling conspiracy theories to acquit itself from the blame of the contagion that has so far affected more than 200,000 people across the world and left about 11000 dead.
However, investigative reports reveal damning evidence that puts the blame of the spread squarely on China. While China has failed to determine the ‘Patient Zero’, from where the epidemic may have spawned, the data from the Chinese government suggest that the novel infection began spreading as early as November 2019. However, it was after several weeks, on December 31st that China acknowledged reports of a previously-unknown virus behind a number of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, a city in Eastern China with a population of over 11 million.
China took an eternity to act against the virus and it took measures only after the epidemic segued into a global pandemic, attracting the wrath of affected countries and fearing sanctions. After having detected the signs of an unknown virus in November, the Chinese officials were not only awfully lethargic in launching preventive measures to curtail the spread but were also viciously repressive against voices who dared to inform the Chinese officials about the emergence of coronavirus. In December, China reprimanded Dr Li Wenliang, who tried to alert his friends about the impending threat from coronavirus. Three months later, the Chinese Communist Party’s top disciplinary body, in an unusual move, admitted their mistake and sent a “solemn apology” to the family of Dr Weliang, who also lost his life due to the virus.
Besides, China had also brought in travel restrictions and lockdown very late. Chinese officials even allegedly destroyed test samples of patients, threatened whistleblowers and even actively covered up concerns and reports of a potential epidemic spreading fast. Now it has even emerged that genomics samples being tested were destroyed by the order of Wuhan authorities. On January 3, China’s National Health Commissioner had reportedly ordered all the labs not to publish any information and took away all the test samples of the virus. A report by WION has summarised the developments.
23 days after China recognised the threat of novel coronavirus, China announced on January 23, a complete lockdown of its Wuhan city, the central Chinese city at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in China and whose live animal markets are believed to be the source from where the contagion emerged. Ratcheting up its measures to control the epidemic that was threatening to rapidly engulf the whole of the country, the Chinese government announced a sweeping lockdown of Wuhan, in an effort to quarantine the centre of the outbreak.
#Gravitas | Fresh evidence suggests that human carriers from China spread the Wuhan virus around the world. @palkisu brings you the second part of WION’s investigation into the origins of the Wuhan Coronavirus. pic.twitter.com/dySqgqmmOR— WION (@WIONews) March 19, 2020
However, the damage was already done as the data from reports suggest that the Chinese government’s laxity in dealing with the pandemic at the outset proved catastrophic for the rest of the world. 5 million out of the 11 million population in Wuhan city had already left the city before the stringent restrictions kicked in. The virus had been allowed to spread for several weeks, with millions of people travelling in and out of the city acting as potential carriers of the virus.
Moreover, the spread of coronavirus happened amidst a major Chinese festival-Lunar New Year, a time when millions of people travel back home or go on a holiday. According to one estimates, the world’s biggest human migration happens during a Chinese New Year. As per some reports, Chinese tourists were expected to make 450 million trips this year, scheduled between January 24 to January 30. It is noteworthy to mention that the outbreak of the virus intensified in Italy, Spain and other parts of the world starting February. The situation in Italy is particularly dire as it recently surpassed China’s coronavirus death toll.
A well-researched study into the international spread of the coronavirus by the Journal of Travel Medicine named 20 cities frequented by travellers from Wuhan during the Chinese New Year. The study named Singapore, Taipei, Malaysia, Sydney, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo etc. as cities where the travellers from Wuhan had travelled. Soon after their travel to these cities, a disproportionate spike in coronavirus cases were registered from Australia, South Korea, Japan, inextricably linking Chinese association to the sudden spurt of coronavirus cases in these countries.
However, this is not the first time that China has been accused of transmitting an intractable disease globally. In 2002-2003, China was accused of spreading SARS which affected more than 8000 people across the world. Reports suggest that Chinese transported the virus to 37 countries then. But the Dragon has refused to learn the lessons from its past mistakes. 18 years later, China is repeating the same mistakes. However, this time around, it has shamelessly been assertive in passing the buck on others even as the world continues to grapple the scourge of the Chinese virus.