Throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that is sweeping the world, it is becoming more and more apparent that China has been less than forthcoming and honest in their information provided to the public. In a time when both governments and private citizens alike are desperate for new and correct information about this devastating disease, the Chinese government has been steadily lying about all of the key components of this outbreak. Not only does this bog down the response efforts by muddying the waters, but it also is endangering lives as doctors and scientists have been giving out recommendations based on preliminary information out of China.
Since China was first to encounter this virus, all of the early information came from the Chinese outbreak in the early days. Now, other countries are finally starting to get their own information about the outbreak, and some things are not adding up. Here are three big things China has lied about regarding COVID-19.
How Serious the Disease Is
Managing the opening of a contagious disease outbreak is critical in stemming its spread. The first few days are absolutely greatly important, and in this way, the Chinese government failed the world in their confusing and double-sided approach to the outbreak. The facts are starting to show that China knew this disease was more serious than they let on long before any real alarm was raised to the rest of the world.
Dr. Wi Wenliang was a doctor who is attributed with blowing the whistle on COVID-19 in late December 2019. Sadly, he would die fighting this disease on January 30th, just a month later. Dr. Wenliang’s story is one that is revealing in the way China was handling the situation.
According to the BBC, on December 30th, 2019, Dr. Wenliang would tell his fellow physicians via a group message, about his suspicions about what is now the novel coronavirus. He warned them to be prepared and to wear ample protective gear in dealing with this new pneumonia to avoid potentially getting infected. It was at this point that he, and presumably others in that same hospital, now knew that they were dealing with a new dangerous virus.
On January 3rd, 2020, Dr. Wenliang is summoned to the local Public Security Bureau and forced to sign a letter that had him redact some of the comments he had been making about the new virus. The BBC reported that he was accused of multiple things stemming from his attempts to raise the alarm about COVID-19, which include “spreading rumors,” “making false comments,” and that he had “severely disturbed the social order.” This shows that internally, China was trying to squash “rumors” about a new disease and downplay the seriousness of the situation being described in the hospitals of Wuhan.
However, on December 31st, three days before they publicly reprimanded Dr. Wenliang, they tell the World Health Organization that they are dealing with a new kind of pneumonia stemming from an unknown virus in Hubei Province.
Also, on December 31st, 2019, the government in Hong Kong publishes a special press release in which they detail the outbreak in Hubei and give hygiene advice, very similar to the ones that are being hammered into us now, in order to prevent the spread. They also detail new measures to monitor people coming into Hong Kong writing:
“The CHP’s Port Health Division conducts health surveillance measures at all boundary control points. Thermal imaging systems are in place for body temperature checks on inbound travellers [sic]. Suspected cases with serious infectious diseases identified will be immediately referred to public hospitals for isolation, treatment, and follow-up. The CHP has also informed the Hospital Authority about the cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan.”
The government knows something is afoot, and this is all the way back in 2019.
On January 1st, 2020, Chinese officials close the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market for “sanitation” reasons. Most of the cases thus far have stemmed from this food market in Wuhan. This means they know the nature of this disease and that it is likely contagious even though they have been adamant that there are no cases of human to human transmission right now. Something that now sounds extremely suspect given what we know.
This shows that internally, the Chinese government knew that there was potential for this virus to be dangerous. They closed the market a day after they alerted the WHO to this new outbreak, and yet right after they do these two things that seem to show them responding to a potentially contagious outbreak, they then reprimand eight people who were trying to warn their comrades about the disease.
What we have here is the Chinese government grappling with what they know to be something potentially serious. They are trying to put measures in place to stop the spread of this disease while also trying to keep their face on the public stage. They botched it, and they lied when they said that people in Wuhan were spreading rumors and false information about the situation developing there.
According to the South China Morning Post, a week later, on January 8th, when asked about the situation in Hubei Province and Wuhan, the Chinese government is mum, offering no serious updates to their counterparts in Hong Kong. The WHO office also says they are closely monitoring the disease but gives no concrete updates.
We know how fast this virus spreads, how contagious and potentially dangerous it is, and yet we have a week in which we get very little new or helpful information out of the epicenter of the virus even though internally the Chinese are starting to move towards a response.
The Number of Cases
In addition to botching their messaging and timeline at the very start of the pandemic, they also have been coy about reporting the true number of cases. Before we have a vaccine or cure, the best chance to stop a pandemic like this is to mitigate its spread to keep the number of cases down. In order to do this effectively, it is good to know how the virus spreads, how fast it is spreading, and where it is spreading. The only way to know these things is to look at the number of cases and location of cases and extrapolate from there.
However, China is not reporting asymptomatic cases. This feels like a stunning omission considering that there is a growing amount of data that shows that asymptomatic infections are a sizable percentage of total infections. People were alarmed all the way back in February about China’s refusal to count patients that they did not see as sick. As China reported their official infection counts to the world, they were leaving out a potentially large number of cases based on semantics.
Scientists warned that this was harming the global response since the numbers coming out of China were being used in disease progression models to try and track and predict what the virus was going to do next. China said they were prioritizing “sick” patients as if the people who were testing positive but felt fine were not true carriers of the disease. That means every official number that came out of China about the number of infected people was a lie. They still have not released the full official numbers of the true count, which includes the people the government did not deem as sick enough to be counted.
As reported in the journal Nature:
“Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing, who helps to implement the guidelines, says that they have always required that positive cases not be counted as confirmed cases. Instead, those who test positive are isolated for 14 days and monitored by health authorities. If they develop symptoms in that period, they are classified as a confirmed case.”
How we let this go without more outrage and alarm is beyond me. They are still using these bogus numbers today out of China, and the Chinese refuse to give us the real data. Models could still be running with bad information out of China. They had a population of people being monitored and forcefully isolated, but until they coughed more than usual or got a fever, they did not count those people as infected.
The raw numbers out of China in regards to confirmed cases was and still is, a lie.
The Number of Deaths
If you believe the official numbers out of China, it would seem as though the people of Wuhan experienced a miracle. Wuhan is a densely populated city of around 11 million people, and yet official tallies show that they only suffered 2,535 deaths during the entirety of the outbreak. This seems incredible considering that, according to what we know now, the virus is extremely contagious and deadly and was probably spreading freely during the early phases of the outbreak unhindered in a large crowded city.
In early February, when the outbreak was seemingly at its peak in Wuhan, officials were spraying the entire city down in bleach and other disinfectants in an attempt to kill the virus. This was going on at the same time that tabloids were reporting on rumors and fears of a strange smog that had appeared over the city at a time when the factories were all shut down. Some claimed that the government was burning all of the infected bodies in the morgues in order to hide the death count and stop the spread of the virus.
This, of course, was tossed aside as panicked hearsay. Why listen to the people on the ground? And yet now, there are reports of tens of thousands of urns being shipped into Wuhan as people are being allowed to collect the remains of their relatives. The number of urns far exceeds the reported official death toll of 2,535 and brings back up the stories from February of bodies being burned en mass.
People in Wuhan are saying that the death toll could be as much as ten times higher than the official count closer to 26,000, with some going as far as to say that the death toll could be over 40,000. This is based on their personal observations, knowledge of how many people died around them, and the sheer amount of urns and people looking to collect them that are being shown.
China’s numbers of less than 4,000 total deaths for the country as a whole also looks suspect when countries like Italy and Spain are now reporting hundreds of deaths per day. China points to their draconian, bordering on totalitarian, response to the virus as reason they weathered it so well but Italy has been on a mandatory lock down for weeks as well and continues to be hammered.
With their deliberate under-reporting of virus cases and their downplaying of the severity of the illness at the start of the pandemic, it is safe to assume that there could be meddling with the death toll numbers as well. A lot of information that was previously discredited by China and parroted by news sources later turned out to be true because it came from sources on the ground in Wuhan, the ones closest to the epidemic. From the severity of the disease to the number of cases and now the official death toll, they have all been questioned by people on the ground, citizens, not government officials, and I suspect that this will continue to be the case.
As more and more information becomes widely available to other governments and the public at large it is becoming more apparent that China has lied about this pandemic from top to bottom since the beginning. It would be best if we can all wake up to this fact and begin taking their word with a grain of salt. Lives could depend on it as this virus continues to spread.