AP: China knew of pandemic danger even as officials downplayed risk

China knew of pandemic danger even as officials downplayed risk
Washington have been blaming China for not taking necessary steps in early days. Source: Getty Images
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Daily US Times: New questions are being raised over when China understood the potential danger of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan and how long the country keep the critical information that might have saved the world from a pandemic like this.

Associated Press published a report based on leaked documents from a confidential teleconference with China’s National Health Commission, Chinese leaders allegedly failed to notify the people about the looming danger and crisis during a critical six-day period despite their own internal evidence painting a dire situation.

That six-day delay becomes more critical because, during that time, more than 3,000 people had infected in China, laying the base for an outbreak that has swept the world later.

The internal documents show that officials were downplaying the situation, but a top Chinese health adviser warned the authority about the virus. The health adviser warned it was “the most severe challenge since SARS in 2003 and is likely to develop into a major public health event.”

AP’s report alleges that Chinese officials had evidence of clusters of cases suggesting human-to-human transmission on January 14, even Wuhan officials said on 15th January that the possibility of such transmission “cannot be excluded”. But China waited longer. On January 20, China, for the first time said publicly that it was definitely taking place and urged greater caution to avoid infection.

Spokespeople for the Chinese government have consistently denied accusations the government covered up key information, even as the country has faced increasing criticism from the US and elsewhere for its alleged lack of transparency early on in the pandemic.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry was questioned about the AP report but said that he had not seen the report.

He said: “In an open, transparent and responsible manner, China has kept the WHO (World Health Organization) and relevant countries and regions updated on the outbreak.”

Early days

In mid-December 2019, coronavirus cases were first detected in central China, but an official alert went out to the World Health Organization (WHO) on December 31, warning of a cluster of pneumonia cases.

Although, Chinese President Xi Jinping publicly commented on the outbreak and ordered “resolute efforts” to contain it on January 20, CNN reported that he was personally involved in the response by January 7 at the latest.

During that 13 day period, Hubei held two key provincial Party meetings and Wuhan invited more than 40,000 families to attend a mass banquet in an attempt to set a world record, which extended the danger even more extreme.

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