As the world remains on edge and concerns over the rapidly spreading Coronavirus grow, many remember what happened the last time an incurable illness escaped from Communist China: The regime lied for weeks about just how bad it was.
That was 2003, and the epidemic virus was identified as SARS. The regime covered up the severity of it because it did not want to cause panic and instability within Chinese borders.
Now, it appears leaders in Beijing are following a similar script with Coronavirus.
‘Officially,’ as of Saturday morning, there were 1,400 virus infections and deaths. However, as Zero Hedge reports, China is only pretending to have learned its lesson from the SARS public relations disaster.
This time around it appears as though the government is being more transparent after President Xi Jinping publicly warned that the country faces a “grave situation” and that the deadly Coronavirus is spreading after he held a special government meeting over the Lunar New Year public holiday.
Zero Hedge noted further:
After staying largely silent in public about the outbreak since it first emerged in central China last month, Xi on Saturday convened a special meeting of the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, calling for a more centralized response to the epidemic and asserting personal responsibility in addressing the crisis.
“When an epidemic breaks out, a command is issued. It is our responsibility to prevent and control it,” Xi said, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.
He also reportedly called for the new high-level committee to “address concerns within and outside the country,” an indirect reference to mounting international fears about the epidemic. “We definitely can win the battle to contain the epidemic,” he pledged.
Maybe…and maybe not.
Earlier reports noted that Chinese authorities have put 56 million people on lockdown quarantine, but the virus has killed at least 41 people while infecting more than 1,400 around the country.
And quite ominously, a researcher in the United Kingdom actually predicted that the virus would spread to a quarter-million people in China in less than two weeks. That alone has regenerated fears that Beijing will again attempt to underreport its Coronavirus casualties and deaths until it’s too late. (Related: Coronavirus Hits 15% Fatality Rate, 83% Infection Rate for Those Exposed; Lancet Publishes Early Study That Points to Alarming Consequences for Humanity.)
In fact, the cover-up has already begun, it would seem. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the death of a 53-year-old fitness trainer, who checked into a hospital in Wuhan about a week earlier, was listed as “severe pneumonia” as its cause, not the Coronavirus.
The paper also noted that “the relatives of two other people who died in separate hospitals in Wuhan this week also described similar situations, saying the causes of death had been given as ‘viral pneumonia.’”
“There are likely to be many times more cases in Wuhan than officially confirmed,” said Neil Ferguson, a disease modeler at Imperial College London.
He parroted the forecast of another researcher, Jonathan Read, in estimating that perhaps as many as 4,000 people have already been infected in Wuhan.
“Clearly, the hospitals are overwhelmed,” he told the paper.
In fact, if more than 4,000 are already infected in Wuhan alone, the forecast of 250,000 infections by February 4 could be way too optimistic, Zero Hedge reported.
Chinese officials have reported far fewer infection numbers officially, however. Though the government has said it will hold officials accountable for delays and omissions in reporting cases, few outside the country believe that.
And indeed, the underreporting is already occurring, according to the WSJ. The paper reported that “some Chinese media with reporters on the ground in Wuhan have said they have found cases that weren’t included in the official reporting.”
What’s also true is that the virus has already spread beyond China’s borders. USA Today reported Sunday that already five cases had been identified in the United States, with health officials noting that the infection can spread before symptoms appear.