Did China really coverup the virus? A myth debunked

Over the course of the course of the outbreak, the narrative surrounding Covid-19 has changed from “China did great in containing the virus” to “China covered up the virus for weeks, CCP must be held accountable”. Many have started to parrot the Chinese “cover up” blindly without looking into the claims.

The “cover up” is largely a false narrative that was initially propagated by various news outlets, like the New York Times and the Guardian.

On March 21, leaked cables and statements from officials revealed the US State Department had informed its officials to propagate the coverup myth in order to distract the American public from its own failures.

“These talking points are all anyone is really talking about right now,” one official said. “Everything is about China. We’re being told to try and get this messaging out in any way possible, including press conferences and television appearances.”

 

The main claims of Chinese coverups by Western media:

1. China arrested whistleblower Li Wenliang to silence him

On December 30, Li Wenliang sent some messages to a private Wechat group with a few of his friends, claiming that he saw patient scans and that “There has been 7 confirmed cases of SARS”. This wording is vastly different from what Western news agencies like BBC claim, that he had warned of a “SARS-like” virus. This is a clear sign of misinformation attempts by Western news sources.

Li Wenliang was an opthalmologist (doctor specialised in eye disorders), not a pulmonologist or virus expert. He claimed definitively that the virus was confirmed to be SARS. This was a case of objectively false information being spread by a doctor in an unrelated field.

It was legally correct that he should get censured for spreading rumours. Also, contrary to popular belief, he was not arrested at all, only told by the police to stop spreading rumours and sign a notice. He was reportedly at the police station for only an hour, hardly as serious as Western media have made it sound.

Another important point that counters the “coverup” theory. He was called down to the police on 3 January, four days after China had already informed the WHO of the virus.

This post goes into further detail debunking the New York Times claim that Li Wenliang was a whistleblower and shows how they twisted the story to suit their narrative: https://mronline.org/2020/03/05/yellow-caking-an-epidemic/

This theory was mostly made popular by the New York Times which is known to be extremely anti-China as seen below:

Source: Twitter Xinhua

2. China issued gag order and instructions to destroy samples on January 3rd

The New York Post, claims that China’s National Health Commission’s issuing of gag order and instructions to destroy the samples on January 3rd was evidence of coverup.

There are 2 problems with this claim. Firstly, China already informed the WHO of the virus 4 days prior, on 31 December. There is no reason China would inform the WHO voluntarily if they were going to try and cover it up.

Secondly, they intentionally left out the reasoning behind the NHC’s actions, which is that commercial gene sequencing companies are not allowed to process highly contagious viruses. “China’s NHC published an announcement classifying the coronavirus as a highly pathogenic micro-organism (type 2), and requested all samples to be handed to provincial or higher level health authorities. All other organizations or person with the virus sample should either destroy or transfer them” http://china.caixin.com/2020-02-26/101520972.html http://shorturl.at/cwABT https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/how-early-signs-of-the-coronavirus-were-spotted-spread-and-throttled-in-china

3. China covered up whether it was human-to-human transmissible

This Vox article quoting Lancet presents two cases of possible human-to-human transmission before January 20. One is the wife of the first person who died. This case was acknowledged by Hong Kong expert Chuang Shuk-kwan, who on 15 January said it was possible that the husband brought home food from the market that then infected his wife, and it was also possible he had infected her.

Yes, WHO knew about these possible cases and did not declare the virus was human-to-human transmissible at the time. This is because “Possible limited human-to-human transmission between close contacts” is not the same as “human-to-human transmissible”. For the virus to be declared “human-to-human transmissible” there had to be evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission.

Neither China nor the WHO denied the possibility of human-to-human transmission, nor cover up the possible cases that seemed to indicate human transmissibility, such as the case of the wife of the first man who died.

On 14 January, WHO doctor Maria Van Kerkhove said that they “wouldn’t be surprised if there was some limited human-to-human transmission, especially among families who have close contact with one another”. On 15 January, Hong Kong expert Dr Chui Tak-yi said that “While there is no definitive evidence that the novel coronavirus in Wuhan is spread between humans, limited human-to-human transmission of the virus cannot be ruled out”.

Doctors were on the lookout for new evidence that would prove the human-to-human transmissibility of the virus, not covering up or denying it as claimed by many western news sources.

It was only when there was widespread infection to medical staff on the 20th of January that there was sufficient evidence to declare it was “human-to-human transmissible”. http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-01/20/c_138721762.htm

4. China faked the numbers

Few media outlets have actually made this claim, but instead many commentators have claimed, without a shred of evidence that China must be faking its numbers because Italy had a higher mortality rate.

There are things you can’t hide, like mass graves, trucks full of dead bodies. Despite the thousands of foreign journalists scrutinising the whole of China, not one piece of credible evidence has emerged. The closest thing has been pictures of urns, which has been debunked below.

On 15 May, the most extensive database of Covid-19 cases in China was leaked from Chinese military sources. The database had over 640,000 updates covering 230 cities. Western media immediately tried to spin it as proof of coverup, but upon closer inspection one would find that it confirmed what many already knew, that China was not intentionally faking its numbers.

Comparing with other countries, Germany, South Korea and many other countries reported much lower cases and mortality rates. China’s mortality rate is average, not exceptionally low. Italy also started to peak around 2 weeks after quarantine began, right in line with statistics from Wuhan at the time of its quarantine.

Reports of imported cases in South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan also show that the number of cases from China had drastically decreased, a sign that China had contained the virus.

On the other hand, Japan has been underreporting its cases, using only one sixth of its capacity despite WHO encouraging states to make as many tests as possible. France excluded people dying in homes or nursing homes from death numbers. An Italian mayor leaked that many who died in their homes are not counted in death numbers. Yet somehow no Western media reports them as coverups.

Source: FT

5. Various other tabloid claims of 40,000 urns, 21 million cellphone users gone, 1500 asymptomatic cases, Dr Ai Fen disappeared, US state department claim

Claims of 40,000 urns came from Radio Free Asia, which arrived at the figure through bullshit extrapolation. Debunked here

21 million cell phone users stopped services due to cessation of businesses, not because they all died, revealed by AP.

1500 asymptomatic cases were already counted and reported as suspected cases by China’s CDC. China voluntarily started to include these cases as confirmed cases, when pretty much all other countries only counted cases with severe symptoms. Even foreigners have called the bullshit of Western media.

Dr Ai Fen’s was claimed by Radio Free Asia to have disappeared because she did not appear on social media for a week. Debunked here

US state department report that China covered up was revealed by “unnamed sources”. And that’s assuming the US state department, which brought us Iraq and Libyan wars, reports on China credibly

Commendations of China’s response to COVID-19

Donald Trump

Source: Twitter

Yes, Donald Trump and the rest of his government knew China was transparent and took great measures to contain the virus.

It was only when the virus exposed how incompetent the US was that he decided to switch to attacking China, spreading the cover-up myth to distract Americans, as I detailed in another post: https://asia-review.com/2020/03/20/how-the-us-is-using-chinese-virus-as-a-distraction-from-their-own-incompetence/

Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Sunday that blaming China for the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is unfair and called for countries to focus on solving the health crisis.

“I’m sure that there are many aspects of the Chinese response to this outbreak, which they would look back upon and believe that they should have done better,” Lee told “Fareed Zakaria GPS” on CNN. “But I don’t think overall that one can say this would not have happened if only the Chinese had done the right thing.” 

CNN host Zakaria asked him if claims of a Chinese “cover-up,” especially by some U.S. politicians such as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was fair comment.

Lee pointed out that when looking at the development patterns of the virus outbreak in many other countries, “they don’t have the Chinese government, and yet they have not found it easy to keep the outbreak under control in their country.”

https://news.cgtn.com/news/2020-03-30/Singapore-PM-says-unfair-to-hold-China-responsible-for-the-pandemic–Phl7BqRfXy/index.html

Bill Gates

Source: Reddit

Bill Gates counters the common perception of China faking its numbers.

Science Magazine

“Responding to an outbreak of a novel coronavirus (agent of COVID-19) in December 2019, China banned travel to and from Wuhan city on 23 January and implemented a national emergency response. We investigated the spread and control of COVID-19 using a unique data set including case reports, human movement and public health interventions. The Wuhan shutdown was associated with the delayed arrival of COVID-19 in other cities by 2.91 days (95%CI: 2.54-3.29). Cities that implemented control measures pre-emptively reported fewer cases, on average, in the first week of their outbreaks (13.0; 7.1-18.8) compared with cities that started control later (20.6; 14.5-26.8). Suspending intra-city public transport, closing entertainment venues and banning public gatherings were associated with reductions in case incidence. The national emergency response appears to have delayed the growth and limited the size of the COVID-19 epidemic in China, averting hundreds of thousands of cases by 19 February

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2020/03/30/science.abb6105

WHO Joint Mission

The WHO Joint Mission consisted of 25 national and international experts. It was headed by Dr. Bruce Aylward of WHO and Dr Wannian Liang of the People’s Republic of China. The Joint Mission was implemented over a 9-day period from 16-24 February 2020.

  1. In the face of a previously unknown virus, China has rolled out perhaps the most ambitious, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history. The strategy that underpinned this containment effort was initially a national approach that promoted universal temperature monitoring, masking, and hand washing. However, as the outbreak evolved, and knowledge was gained, a science and risk-based approach was taken to tailor implementation. Specific containment measures were adjusted to the provincial, county and even community context, the capacity of the setting, and the nature of novel coronavirus transmission there.
  2. Achieving China’s exceptional coverage with and adherence to these containment measures has only been possible due to the deep commitment of the Chinese people to collective action in the face of this common threat. At a community level this is reflected in the remarkable solidarity of provinces and cities in support of the most vulnerable populations and communities. Despite ongoing outbreaks in their own areas, Governors and Mayors have continued to send thousands of health care workers and tons of vital PPE supplies into Hubei province and Wuhan city.
  3. China’s bold approach to contain the rapid spread of this new respiratory pathogen has changed the course of a rapidly escalating and deadly epidemic. A particularly compelling statistic is that on the first day of the advance team’s work there were 2478 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in China. Two weeks later, on the final day of this Mission, China reported 409 newly confirmed cases. This decline in COVID-19 cases across China is real.
  4. China is already, and rightfully, working to bolster its economy, reopen its schools and return to a more normal semblance of its society, even as it works to contain the remaining chains of COVID-19 transmission. Appropriately, a science-based, riskinformed and phased approach is being taken, with a clear recognition and readiness of the need to immediately react to any new COVID-19 cases or clusters as key elements of the containment strategy are lifted.

Full report: https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/who-china-joint-mission-on-covid-19-final-report.pdf

Conclusion

China’s response to the outbreak of Covid-19 has been exceedingly transparent, swift, effective and lifesaving.

However, the narrative has been hijacked by a few Western media outlets to propagate a cover-up using nitpicked events that were twisted to fit their narrative.

The reason it has been succesful is because it aligns with pre-existing Western biases about China’s government being untrustworthy liars.

No amount of re-writing history will change the objective reality that China faced an entirely new virus, had to do all the discovery from scratch, and still had the fastest and most aggressive response. And nothing will change how the entire western world, despite having all the homework done for them, still failed to react until thousands or tens of thousands of cases emerged.

 

 

 

 

 

Further reading:

How the New York Times spun a fake narrative of Chinese coverup: https://mronline.org/2020/03/05/yellow-caking-an-epidemic/

The real timeline of Covid-19: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kO5EXjFKE7U

China and the coronavirus: https://www.reddit.com/r/communism/comments/fi390n/china_and_the_coronavirus/

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