Chinese leaders knew but suppressed info on deadly Covid-19 epidemic in December

Chinese scientists knew about the Covid-19 infection which originated in the central city of Wuhan and its deadly effects as early as late December but were ordered by government. (Photo courtesy: FP)

(, Mar01’20) – Chinese scientists knew about the Covid-19 infection which originated in the central city of Wuhan and its deadly effects as early as late December but were ordered by government officials to suppress the evidence, leading to its epidemic spread not just to the rest of China but across the world, said a report Feb 29, citing Sunday Times of London and mainland Chinese business news site Caixin Global.

The report said that in late Dec 2019, several genomics companies tested samples from sick patients in Wuhan — the centre of the novel coronavirus outbreak — and noticed alarming similarities between their illnesses and the 2002 SARS virus. However, when researchers alerted Beijing of their findings, they received on Jan 3 a gag order from China’s National Health Commission, with instructions to destroy the samples.

The report continued that rather than hunkering down to contain the virus, Wuhan officials went ahead with their annual potluck dinner for 40,000 families.

The cover-up continued when representatives from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention visited Wuhan on Jan 8, where officials intentionally withheld information that hospital workers had been infected by patients. And news of the virus’ highly contagious nature didn’t surface publicly until Jan 20, the report noted.

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In 12 short weeks the virus has spread from a wet market in Wuhan across China and out into the world. So far 58 countries have reported over 83,000 cases—though the true figure is almost certainly a lot larger, noted The Economist this week email newsletter dated Feb 29. The week saw the daily toll of new cases outside China beginning to outstrip the spread of the infection inside.

The United States, Australia and Thailand reported their first deaths on Feb 29. Also, Luxembourg and Ecuador reported their first confirmed cases on Feb 29.

Latest compilation by the Mar 1 show the number of confirmed cases in South Korea, the country worst affected outside China, at 3,736, with 20 deaths. Italy had 1,128 cases and 29 deaths. Iran had 978 cases and the highest death toll outside China at 54. The Diamond Princess cruise ship anchored on Japan’s coast had 705 cases and six deaths. And Japan with 242 cases had five deaths.

Other countries with confirmed cases and deaths as of Mar 1 included France (100, 2) Hong Kong (96, 2), The United States (62, 1), Thailand (42, 1), Taiwan (40, 1), The United Kingdom (23, 1), the Philippines (3, 1), and Ecuador (1, 1).

Countries with 10 or more confirmed cases but no death as of Mar 1 included Singapore (106), Germany (57), Spain (46), Kuwait (45), Bahrain (38), Malaysia (25), Australia (24), the UE (19), Vietnam (16), Canada (14), Iraq (13), Sweden (13), Macao (10), Switzerland (10), and Austria (10).

The number of confirmed cases across the world totaled 87,506 and the deaths 2,994. A total of 41,960 were reported to have recovered from the illness.

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In mainland China, the new infection on Feb 29 totaled 573 and the deaths 35, taking the cumulative confirmed infections to 79,824 and the deaths to 2,870.

Hubei Province accounted for 570 of the new confirmed cases and 34 of the deaths on Feb 29. Of these, 565 confirmed cases and 26 deaths had occurred in Wuhan.

A total of 41,625 patients were reported discharged from hospitals across mainland China after recovery by the end of Feb 29.

The number of new suspected cases on Feb 29 was reported to be 132, taking the total to 851.


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