By Hannatu Musawa
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently accused China of not sharing data properly during an investigation into the origins of the Coronavirus. The organization voiced its concern that it had difficulty accessing raw data on the origins of the disease from China. China has long faced accusations of withholding data and not informing the international community about the severity of the disease in the pandemic’s early stages.
Now, according to WHO, all theories on the origins of Covid-19 remain open and further investigation is needed, and at the same time, China needs to take culpability for the outbreak of the pandemic.
It goes without saying that The COVID-19 pandemic is causing human, economic, and social damage around the world. At this time, almost everyone in the world has been negatively affected or tragically impacted by the effect of this disastrous virus. There is huge frustration and outrage over the virus and missed opportunities to mitigate it earlier. The sheer magnitude of the damage caused by this coronavirus has provoked strong opinions that China bears international legal responsibility for the outbreak of the pandemic and should be held responsible.
Even if China is not called to compensate all the countries harmed by Covid-19, it should, at least, apologize for its part in allowing the disease to escape from Wuhan and spread to all corners of the globe. All the people and nations affected by this disease have a right to know exactly what China knew, when it knew it, and how the government’s decisions to try and hide the virus allowed it to spread and kept the global nations from protecting themselves sooner.
The disease caused by the new coronavirus, which leads to a respiratory illness that can be transmitted from droplets of bodily fluids – such as mucus and saliva, has now been reported in at least 188 countries and territories. At this very time, millions of people have died or been infected. And the number continues to grow daily.
One has to wonder how the world got here, how the virus was allowed to run amok despite the modern day mode of communication, despite the fact that there was information about the virus way before it infiltrated global borders. In December 2019, the novel coronavirus was seemingly confined to China. But, a few weeks later, the virus, which causes the illness known as COVID-19, became a global pandemic. To understand why this was allowed to happen, one has to take a journey back through memory lane as reported.
The virus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan before turning out to be an epidemic and pandemic. Patient Zero, was reported to have started showing symptoms on the 1stof December 2019. This patient was thought to have contracted the disease at a wet market in Wuhan, China, where the disease is purported to have originated from. This patient then passed the disease on to his wife, who had no exposure to the Wuhan Wet Market. This singular event showed human-to-human transmission. From 1stof December 2019 to 30th December 2019, a full 29 days, Chinese authorities allowed this deadly and unknown virus to spread freely throughout Wuhan. Invariably, that would have been the moment for the authorities to act decisively.
On the 30thDecember 2019, Dr Lu Wenliang, an eye doctor, warned fellow medical professionals about a new SARS-like illness. The doctor told a WeChat group about the virus. But a day later, in response, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission massively downplayed the expanding crisis by censoring Dr . Lu Wenliang and nonsensically claiming not to have found evidence of human-to-human transmission. The government detained him, disciplined him and forced him to admit wrong doing. Dr Lu Wenliang, the Chinese doctor who first spread alarm about the coronavirus in December of 2019 subsequently died of COVID-19 on the 7thof Feb 2020. The Chinese government went ahead to act decisively against any other doctor or whistle-blower who tried to call attention to the public health threat of the coronavirus.
Although the Chinese government were very much aware of the Novel Coronavirus back in December of 2019, it wasn’t until the 20thof January 2020, when the virus had already spread around the world, that the Chinese government finally confirmed human-to-human transmission and began taking steps to combat the deadly infection. But by then it was already too late. Coronavirus had, by then, spread all over the planet. It had spread to Iran, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, the United States and beyond.
It is more than likely that, had the Chinese government responded adequately when the virus was first brought to their attention, the World would not be facing this current health disaster.
Studies published by the University of South Hampton, show that the Chinese authorities could have reduced the spread of coronavirus by a staggering 95% if they had acted three weeks earlier than they did. The disease should never have left China’s borders. The fact is that the Chinese government’s faulty disease mitigation policy is very much responsible for the spread of the coronavirus, and their actions were not just inept, but negligent of the danger it posed.
Even after the Chinese government informed the World Health Organization of the virus on the 31stof December 2019, it was still reluctant on telling its citizens the truth. When other countries started reporting infections, China allegedly pretended that it had confined the outbreak to Wuhan. The government finally ordered a lockdown on the 23rdof January 2020 that quarantined people in Wuhan. But by then, according to the Mayor of the city, five million people had already tragically fled Wuhan and were decimated all over the world.
Even at the time that China started tackling the virus, the government continued to hide the truth about it. They were not honest about the number of cases they had in China and they tried to downplay the virus’ severity and buttress their efforts in trying to contain it. By concealing valuable data about the coronavirus at a very crucial time, Chinese government officials purposely deceived other countries, allowing the virus to spread without sharing information about the virus’s dangerous potential. This cause of action, together with their failure to quickly contain the outbreak when the authorities first became aware of it, presents a case of negligence in stopping the pandemic.
No matter which way one cuts it, China has to carry the bulk of responsibility as far as the outbreak of Coronavirus goes. China spun that virus. They hid it for six weeks. They could have contained it in Wuhan. They didn’t. They seeded the world with this, with hundreds of thousands of Chinese getting on aircraft to Milan, to New York and other places.
No matter which angle one takes in this disaster, China needs to be upfront to the world on the details surrounding the origin of this virus and should be held accountable for the spread of Covid-19 across the world. Through negligence and mistruths, the Chinese government basically inflicted this virus on the world.
The failure of the Chinese government to tackle the coronavirus at the initial phase goes beyond mere repudiation of the disease’s existence. It involved an attempt to repress vital voices and quell public knowledge until that proved impossible to continue.
In January 2020, the Chinese government closed testing facilities and that was when they were aware that the virus could be transmitted through human contact. It would appear that the government did that in order to be able to hold the Chinese New Year celebrations in Wuhan in that year. Doctors were allegedly not allowed to report new cases of the virus and by the time the Chinese government started a proper response to the coronavirus on the 23rdof January 2020, it was too late because Covid-19 had already begun to rapidly spread around the world.
While leaders of other countries had a responsibility to also prepare against the virus as it spread, it is clear that the Chinese government bears a huge portion of the responsibility for the pandemic currently ravaging the world. One cannot downplay the Chinese government’s role in catalysing this crisis even if one tried.
At some point, leaders need to call out the negligence of the Chinese government and its hypocrisy in this saga. Nations need to work together in order to ensure that Chinese government changes their approach for the prevention of future pandemics. This is vital because the Covid-19 incident is not the first example of the Chinese government mishandling a disease. Back in 2005, the Chinese government’s poor handling of severe acute respiratory syndrome was highlighted by disinformation and a failure to act quickly. This pattern where the Chinese government refuses to provide transparency is hazardous and has got to be put to an end. One only needs to consider the situation that the world is in right now to know that. By refusing to make the Chinese government culpable in this pandemic, we give them leverage in not making the necessary changes to handle future outbreaks more effectively. This is one failure that the world cannot allow history to forget.
The Chinese government also needs to address the legality of their wet markets and the overzealous eating habits of their citizens. Those wet markets, where animals are held and slaughtered in unsanitary conditions, are likely to have been where the coronavirus made the jump from animals to humans, and have played the same role for other epidemics, such as SARS.
One must also mention the part that WHO (World Health Organization) played in allowing the virus to spread around the world. The main question here is why it took so long for the WHO to declare the Coronavirus from China a world pandemic although many health officials and governments had identified it as such far earlier than the organization did. Tedros Adhanom, the Organization’s director-general also has a case to answer for his management of the pandemic. From a spectators vantage point, his actions in managing this deadly pandemic was reckless, especially when he downplayed the severity, prevalence and scope of the COVID-19 outbreak. As the number of cases and the death toll soared, the WHO took months to declare the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic, even though it had met the criteria of transmission between people, high fatality rates and worldwide spread. Mr. Adhanom went further to advise against widespread travel bans and restrictions in order to stop the outbreak.
There is no doubt that China failed in its duty to the rest of the World. Its deliberate cover-up of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan should be a vital matter of public record. In suppressing information about the virus, doing little to contain it, censoring and detaining doctors and whistleblowers who attempted to sound the alarm and warn the world when they understood the gravity of what was to come, and allowing it to spread unchecked in the crucial early days and weeks, the Chinese regime imperiled, not only its own country and its own citizens, but all the nations of the world.
When all is said and done, an international investigation into the Chinese government’s handling of the coronavirus has got to be put in place. Every one of us in this world affected by Covid-19 deserves accountability from the Chinese government for its actions, which have contributed to the spread of the coronavirus.
While this too shall pass… The Chinese government must apologize to the globe for the negligent and pernicious part it played in allowing Covid-19 to infiltrate each of our lives.