by WorldTribune Staff, February 3, 2020
As the death toll from in China from the Wuhan coronavirus has surpassed that of the SARS outbreak of 2002 and 2003, the communist government’s response is being called into question.
China’s Health Commission reported on Sunday that there were 361 deaths nationwide. During the SARS outbreak, 349 people died in mainland China.
As of Sunday, China had 17,205 confirmed infections. During the SARS outbreak, it had 5,327 cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The New York Times cited the world’s leading infectious disease analysts as saying the coronavirus outbreak is likely to become a pandemic, defined as an ongoing epidemic on two or more continents.
There is a growing consensus among scientists the coronavirus is spreading more like influenza than its slow-moving viral cousins, SARS and MERS.
“It’s very, very transmissible, and it almost certainly is going to be a pandemic,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.
While some analysts question China’s transparency in addressing the outbreak, others say that Chinese medical research into the virus may have been halted.
Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch (HRW) told The Telegraph that “From a medical and human rights perspective, it is essential in these situations that people can trust the information available. I have real concerns about people who are supposedly ‘spreading rumors’ being harassed by authorities, especially at a time when people are concerned they are not getting accurate information.”
Geostrategy-Direct.com reported last week that the virus “may have started developing in the city of Wuhan in mid-November 2019.”
Geostrategy-Direct’s Richard Fisher reported: “However, the Chinese government did not alert the World Health Organization until Dec. 31, 2019 and the quarantine of Wuhan City and now 20 other cities did not start until Jan. 23.
“From reports coming from Wuhan, it appears that public health institutions are overwhelmed and unresponsive while economic activity has nearly halted.”
Richardson believes the Chinese state could have deliberately silenced medical experts who were raising the alarm about the virus. The communist government of supreme leader Xi Jinping may also have halted medical research into the virus, Richardson believes.
China was slammed for covering up the 2002-2003 SARS crisis and, now, Communist Party officials in Wuhan are being heavily criticized over their handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
In rare public dissent, a senior journalist at a Hubei provincial newspaper run by the ruling Communist Party in a Weibo post called for “immediate” change of leadership in. The post was later removed.
On Wednesday, Chinese authorities issued an order for a news article that looked at the possible negative impact of the virus on China’s economy to be scrubbed from the Internet.
The communist government is also cracking down on what it calls the spreading of “rumors” on Chinese social media about the virus. The government announced that anyone who tries to “disrupt social order” by posting on social media information about the virus from sources other than state-run propaganda outlets will face between three and seven years in jail.
Other analysts have said that China exploited its status as a major superpower to influence the World Health Organization’s decision not to initially declare coronavirus an international emergency.
Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, told The Daily Telegraph: “The criteria for declaring a public health emergency of international concern have been met,” but added “not all WHO decisions are made based on the developments in the biological world.”
The WHO declared coronavirus a world health emergency on Jan. 30. China reported the first death from coronavirus occurred on Jan. 9.
Previously, China’s persistence encouraged the WHO to include traditional Chinese medicine in its traditional compendium, the Telegraph noted. And under pressure from the communist government in China, Taiwan was excluded from receiving global health advice for the past three years.