According to exclusive reports obtained by AP News and retrospective infection data, it is believed that China failed to warn the public of a likely pandemic for six days. Chinese President Xi Jinping warned the public on January 20, nearly a week after the government reportedly knew of the outbreak.
By that time, over 3,000 people had been confirmed to contract COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). This also came during Lunar New Year, where millions travel across, to and from the mainland for celebratory purposes. During this time, the city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus, hosted a mass banquet for tens of thousands of people and their families.
While some are lamenting the delay in public warning, others have stated they understand the possible reasoning behind it, citing that the government was likely trying to gauge the severity of the situation before sparking mass panic. It is also important to note possible reporting issues between the state and federal levels, especially after the ousting of two top Hubei province officials due to their mishandling of the outbreak.
Zuo Feng Zhang, an epidemiologist at the University of California said: “If they took action six days earlier, there would have been much fewer patients and medical facilities would have been sufficient. We might have avoided the collapse of Wuhan’s medical system.”
This comes during a precarious diplomatic situation, whereby United States President Donald Trump has announced the freezing of World Health Organization funding after launching an official investigation into the institution and claiming that the organization acted in a “China-centric” manner.
In another development, US government intelligence reports state that China underreported the number of cases and deaths attributed to the pandemic. The Chinese government has, however, continuously denied omitting and suppressing information during the early stages of the outbreak, stating that they instantly communicated with the WHO.