The “Wuhan model”: China’s coronavirus outbreak and cover-up

The bottom line: China is now trying to create a narrative that it’s an example of how to handle this crisis when in fact its early actions led to the virus spreading around the globe. 

Over the past days, while the Chinese Communist Party is making every possible effort to turn the current health crisis into its advantage, portraying itself as a responsible and benevolent superpower, additional data and information continues to emerge on China’s initial cover-up of the coronavirus pandemic. This counters the narrative Beijing is aggressively pushing around the world and within its own territory, silencing critical voices within and abroad, as well as “rehabilitating” popular heroes by putting the blame on local officials. However, as a study published in March indicates: if Chinese authorities had acted three weeks earlier than they did, the number of coronavirus cases could have been reduced by 95% and its geographic spread limited. Therefore, the following reconstruction of the timeline by Axios is of fundamental importance to understand not only the current global disaster, but also the nature of the Chinese communist regime, which continues to operate along the exact same lines, taking advantage of the difficulties governments are facing around the world to reinforce their push for global leadership and a new global order “with Chinese characteristics”. 

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The “Wuhan model”: China’s coronavirus outbreak and cover-up

Sources: Caixin, International Federation of Journalists, Axios

The bottom line: China is now trying to create a narrative that it’s an example of how to handle this crisis when in fact its early actions led to the virus spreading around the globe. 

Over the past days, while the Chinese Communist Party is making every possible effort to turn the current health crisis into its advantage, portraying itself as a responsible and benevolent superpower, additional data and information continues to emerge on China’s initial cover-up of the coronavirus pandemic. This counters the narrative Beijing is aggressively pushing around the world and within its own territory, silencing critical voices within and abroad, as well as “rehabilitating” popular heroes by putting the blame on local officials. However, as a study published in March indicates: if Chinese authorities had acted three weeks earlier than they did, the number of coronavirus cases could have been reduced by 95% and its geographic spread limited. Therefore, the following reconstruction of the timeline by Axios is of fundamental importance to understand not only the current global disaster, but also the nature of the Chinese communist regime, which continues to operate along the exact same lines, taking advantage of the difficulties governments are facing around the world to reinforce their push for global leadership and a new global order “with Chinese characteristics”. 

On March 20, Chinese investigators unveiled the results of their probe into the reprimand and death of whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang, who was among the first to try to warn people about Covid-19 in December but was muzzled by police. He died of the illness in early February, sparking public outrage prompting China’s central government to send a team of investigators to Wuhan, Hubei province, where he worked.

A local police station in Wuhan, where the outbreak first emerged, issued an inappropriate reprimand” to Li following irregular law enforcement procedures,” according to the report issued by the State Supervision Commission.

Yet, critical voices continue to be muzzled as before: on March 18, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that all US journalist working in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post will have their press passes revoked. All journalists who are US citizens must now return their press passes within 10 days and cannot continue  to working as journalists in the country.

The ministry announcement said that the Chinese government rejects the “ideological bias against China, fake news made in the name of press freedom, and breaches of ethics in journalism”. Instead it called on “foreign media outlets and journalists to play a positive role in advancing the mutual understanding between China and the rest of the world”.

With regard to the decision, the International Federation of Journalists stated: 

The free flow of information that journalists facilitate is pivotal, particularly in the face of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.”

But this is exactly what the Chinese regime does not want, and the timeline published by Bethany Allen-Ebrahimianon Axios on March 18, 2020, on the early days of China’s coronavirus outbreak and cover-up shows why:

Axios has compiled a timeline of the earliest weeks of the coronavirus outbreak in China, highlighting when the cover-up started and ended — and showing how, during that time, the virus already started spreading around the world, including to the United States.

Why it matters: A study published in March indicated that if Chinese authorities had acted three weeks earlier than they did, the number of coronavirus cases could have been reduced by 95% and its geographic spread limited.

This timeline, compiled from information reported by the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the South China Morning Post and other sources, shows that China’s cover-up and the delay in serious measures to contain the virus lasted about three weeks.

Dec. 10: Wei Guixian, one of the earliest known coronavirus patients, starts feeling ill.

Dec. 16: Patient admitted to Wuhan Central Hospital with infection in both lungs but resistant to anti-flu drugs. Staff later learned he worked at a wildlife market connected to the outbreak.

Dec. 27: Wuhan health officials are told that a new coronavirus is causing the illness.

Dec. 30:

    Ai Fen, a top director at Wuhan Central Hospital, posts information on WeChat about the new virus. She was reprimanded for doing so and told not to spread information about it.

    Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang also shares information on WeChat about the new SARS-like virus. He is called in for questioning shortly afterward.

    Wuhan health commission notifies hospitals of a “pneumonia of unclear cause” and orders them to report any related information.

Dec. 31:

    Wuhan health officials confirm 27 cases of illness and close a market they think is related to the virus’ spread.

    China tells the World Health Organization’s China office about the cases of an unknown illness.

Jan. 1: Wuhan Public Security Bureau brings in for questioning eight doctors who had posted information about the illness on WeChat.

    An official at the Hubei Provincial Health Commission orders labs, which had already determined that the novel virus was similar to SARS, to stop testing samples and to destroy existing samples.

Jan. 2: Chinese researchers map the new coronavirus’ complete genetic information. This information is not made public until Jan. 9.

Jan. 7: Xi Jinping becomes involved in the response.

Jan. 9: China announces it has mapped the coronavirus genome.

Jan. 11–17: Important prescheduled CCP meeting held in Wuhan. During that time, the Wuhan Health Commission insists there are no new cases.

Jan. 13: First coronavirus case reported in Thailand, the first known case outside China.

Jan. 14: WHO announces Chinese authorities have seen “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus.”

Jan. 15: The patient who becomes the first confirmed U.S. case leaves Wuhan and arrives in the U.S., carrying the coronavirus.

Jan. 18:

    The Wuhan Health Commission announces four new cases.

    Annual Wuhan Lunar New Year banquet. Tens of thousands of people gathered for a potluck.

Jan. 19: Beijing sends epidemiologists to Wuhan.

Jan. 20:

    The first case announced in South Korea.

    Zhong Nanshan, a top Chinese doctor who is helping to coordinate the coronavirus response, announces the virus can be passed between people. 

Jan. 21:

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms the first coronavirus case in the United States.

    CCP flagship newspaper People’s Daily mentions the coronavirus epidemic and Xi’s actions to fight it for the first time.

    China’s top political commission in charge of law and order warns that “anyone who deliberately delays and hides the reporting of [virus] cases out of his or her own self-interest will be nailed on the pillar of shame for eternity.”

Jan. 23: Wuhan and three other cities are put on lockdown. Right around this time, approximately 5 million people leave the city without being screened for the illness.

Jan. 24–30: China celebrates the Lunar New Year holiday. Hundreds of millions of people are in transit around the country as they visit relatives.

Jan. 24: China extends the lockdown to cover 36 million people and starts to rapidly build a new hospital in Wuhan. From this point, very strict measures continue to be implemented around the country for the rest of the epidemic.

The bottom line: China is now trying to create a narrative that it’s an example of how to handle this crisis when in fact its early actions led to the virus spreading around the globe.

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