Misinformation and shifting blame: How China has lost out on the debate over coronavirus

WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaEdited By: Sonal GeraUpdated: Mar 18, 2020, 11:20 PM IST
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File photo of coronavirus Photograph:(AFP)

Story highlights

The source of the coronavirus is believed to be a "wet market" in the Wuhan city of China, goading United States President Donald Trump to repeatedly term coronavirus as "Chinese virus".

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared a global pandemic over a novel coronavirus which causes an illness known as COVID-19. It has spread to more than 150 countries and territories, killing over 8,000 people amid almost 2,00,000 cases.

The source of the coronavirus is believed to be a "wet market" in the Wuhan city of China, goading United States President Donald Trump to repeatedly term coronavirus as "Chinese virus".

The virus has now spread to more than 100 other countries, and the majority of cases are now outside China.

The US and China have been sparring over who is to blame for the meteoric rise in the number of cases across the world. And in the debate, China appears to be losing out on logic.

Firstly, because China, for months, ignored reports of the outbreak. It's said the first case in China could have emerged way back in November. Patients complained of dry cough, high fever and breathlessness. When the lung scans of these patients were carried out, results showed it was the usual pneumonia.
The patients continued to get more sick...

The patients, even after getting administered with doses of medicine, did not show any improvement. But the authorities, it's said, did not pay much heed.

It was then when Ai Fen -- the director of Wuhan's central hospital -- decided to carry out a few tests. Her account was later published in the China News Weekly, a magazine.

The results of the tests came back by the end of December, indicating a SARS-like coronavirus.

Other doctors had then been noticing similar patterns in other reports. One of them was Dr Li Wenliang -- one of the first whistleblowers.

When Dr Li warned his colleagues about the outbreak over WeChat -- an application similar to WhatsApp -- China's internet police interfered and stopped the spread of the information. He was later accused of spreading lies and rumours.

It's said, despite this, Dr Li continued to treat coronavirus patients, and later died in February.

Another theory has it that on January 1, an employee of a Genomics company reportedly received a phone call from an official. This company was involved in the testing of the coronavirus samples.

The Hubei Provincial Health Commission had ordered them to stop the testing, and to destroy all existing samples.

Then, on January 3, China's National Health Commission ordered all institutions to not publish any information.

Six days later, China admitted it had been dealing with the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.

Cutting it short, when the disease was detected, China refused to acknowledge. It tried to silence voices, when concerns were raised. The country's administrations even destroyed the proofs.

And when the other countries tried to show them some light, and imposed travel restrictions or issued warnings, China lashed out at them. It said they were spreading panic.

This brings us to the second major point -- China ignored, and targetted whistleblowers. 

China also said it was gradually becoming victim of racism when its citizens faced scrutiny outside.

It's even said that the Chinese government indulged in aggressively promoting misinformation about the coronavirus -- to draw attention away from Beijing’s own responsibility for the global pandemic. China even floated a conspiracy theory that it was the US Army that brought the virus to Wuhan.