Governments and intelligence agencies outside of China suspect that the country’s leadership has been painting a false picture of the severity of the coronavirus outbreak, downplaying the extent of the spread and underreporting the number of the people infected.
China’s story, so far: The virus is believed to have originated in Wuhan, with the first patient showing symptoms in December. China’s authorities initially quarantined the city but expanded the lockdown to 15 other cities with a combined population of 56 million.
More than 1,000 people have died of the coronavirus and that approximately 34,000 are being treated in hospital. The numbers continue to surge.
Too little too late? The coronavirus has spread to 28 countries across the globe, despite travel restrictions on people coming from China. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that the quarantine in Wuhan was belated with 11,213 already infected when authorities locked Wuhan down.
How credible is state-controlled media? The government in China has long controlled what the media reports and it’s unlikely that their approach to the coronavirus outbreak is any different. Local officials in China have already begun cracking down on what they call online “rumors” about the virus, including deleting some investigative reports from Wuhan media outlets, raising concerns that the Communist government is trying to control the narrative by censoring information.
What’s the big deal? Based on the numbers China has released, the spread of the virus appears almost minimal. China says that out of 56 million people, 723 have died and 34,000 have been hospitalized. For comparison, out of 329 million people in America during the 2018-19 flu season, 43 million people were infected, 647,000 admitted, and 61,000 died. The U.S., however, never thought of locking down 4% of its population, the Spectator’s James Adam notes, causing him to question whether the outbreak is actually more severe.
The media can make you stupid and we’re working hard to be an antidote.
China did try to silence a Wuhan doctor: Chinese authorities compelled Li Wenliang, who worked in a Wuhan hospital, to sign a statement that his claim about seven people being infected by a “mysterious illness” was false. Wenliang made the remarks in a group chat with medical students before China admitted to the virus outbreak. Wenliang returned to work at the hospital even after being reprimanded and died of the virus earlier this month.
Chinese citizens are speaking up: Leaked footage from China is emerging on social media, offering a glimpse of how China is handling the problem. One video, believed to be taken by a nurse in Wuhan, appears to show dead bodies lying in a hospital corridor covered with sheets.
Chen Qiushi, a lawyer who became a vlogger, disappeared after posting videos on YouTube and Twitter, which are banned in China, showing what’s happening in hospitals. “Why am I here? I have stated that it’s my duty to be a citizen-journalist. What sort of a journalist are you if you don’t dare rush to the front line in a disaster?” he said in one of his videos.
One video showed a dead man in a wheelchair in a hospital. “What’s wrong with him?” he asked a woman holding the man. “He has already passed,” she responded.
His friend, mixed martial artist Xu Xiaodong, said he was quarantined for 14 days, but argued that he was healthy and didn’t have any symptoms.