Chinese Government Authorities Criticized For Stifling Early Response To Coronavirus

A coronavirus has now infected over 14,380 people worldwide and killed at least 304 people in China, reports the New York Times. But they also note that when the first symptoms appeared in December, Chinese authorities “silenced doctors and others for raising red flags.” They played down the dangers to the public, leaving the city’s 11 million residents unaware they should protect themselves. They closed a food market where the virus was believed to have started, but didn’t broadly curb the wildlife trade.

Their reluctance to go public, in part, played to political motivations as local officials prepared for their annual congresses in January. Even as cases climbed, officials declared repeatedly that there had likely been no more infections.

By not moving aggressively to warn the public and medical professionals, public health experts say, the Chinese government lost one of its best chances to keep the disease from becoming an epidemic. “This was an issue of inaction,” said Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations who studies China. “There was no action in Wuhan from the local health department to alert people to the threat.”

The first case, the details of which are limited and the specific date unknown, was in early December. By the time the authorities galvanized into action on Jan. 20, the disease had grown into a formidable threat.

It is now a global health emergency.

The Times also reports on the last day of 2019, the police even announced “that they were investigating eight people for spreading rumors about the outbreak.”

And days later Wuhan’s mayor spoke to the Communist Party-run legislatures, promising that his city would soon host a World Health Expo.