The Coronavirus has become a global epidemic as the Communist Party of China has grossly failed to nip the outbreak in its bud. While official figures from China show that the outbreak has claimed the life of 500 people and infected over 30,000 people in China, Chinese conglomerate Tencent inadvertently leaked the true figures which are much higher than the official figures. According to Tencent, the casualties of Coronavirus in China have crossed 25,000 with over 1,50,000 infected. The Chinese government is attempting to hide its negligence and inefficiencies by underreporting the deaths caused due to Coronavirus.
Tencent inadvertently revealed the true figures which gave substance to widespread fears that China is indeed severely underreporting the extent of damage caused by Coronavirus. Despite the break neck speed at which two hospitals were built to treat the Coronavirus patients, China has been found wanting when it comes to dealing with the deadly virus. Dead bodies lying unclaimed at the aisles of Wuhan hospitals are a common scene as China finds itself short of manpower. There is palpable anger in China as the authorities ignored the initial signs of outbreak and now the outbreak is proving to be too big for them to handle. There is little doubt that China is hiding the number of deaths and infections.
The virus which is airborne in nature, has virtually spread across the entire country as during the Lunar New Year celebrations on January 25, mass scale travels took place in China after which Coronavirus has been spread to nearly every part of the country and also Hong Kong. The virus has been the most fatal in the eastern part of the country which constitute some of the most densely populated cities in the world.
The authoritarian Chinese Communist Party govt is under such pressure that it has been attempting to scapegoat the local administration. Yesterday, Chinese doctor Li Wenliang who was one of the first whistleblowers who tried to warn about the Coronavirus has sadly succumbed to the virus after treating the patients of the virus. His voice was muzzled by the Chinese authorities and as China erupted in grief and anger, the state run media squarely pinned the blame on local authorities.
Chinese doctor #LiWenliang, one of the eight "whistleblowers" who tried to warn other medics of the coronavirus outbreak but were reprimanded by local police, died from #coronavirus at 2:58 am Friday, the hospital where he received treatment announced. https://t.co/eCrNha7Nn1 pic.twitter.com/WYwDxZFBej
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) February 6, 2020
We deeply mourn the death of #Wuhan doctor Li wenliang, who unfortunately got infected with novel #Coronavirus while battling with the epidemic. After all-effort rescue, Li passed away on 2:58 am, Feb. 7. pic.twitter.com/mbYA3wB4pn
— People's Daily, China (@PDChina) February 6, 2020
Look how the state run Global Times and the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, People’s Daily try to blame the local authorities for ‘reprimanding’ Wenliang. When Wenliang on December 30, sent a message to fellow doctors in a chat group warning them to wear protective clothing to avoid infection, four days later he was summoned to the Public Security Bureau where he was told to sign a letter. In the letter he was accused of “making false comments” that had “severely disturbed the social order”. He was one of eight people who police said were being investigated for “spreading rumours” Local authorities later apologised to Dr Li. In his Weibo post he describes how on 10 January he started coughing, the next day he had a fever and two days later he was in hospital. He was diagnosed with the Coronavirus on 30 January.
Even in his death, Wenliang was disrespected by the Chinese government as when he was initially declared dead at 21:30 local time, the news triggered a huge wave of popular reaction on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter. The top two trending hashtags on the website were “Wuhan government owes Dr Li Wenliang and apology” and “We want freedom of speech” which were of course quickly censored by the government. Wenliang’s death saw the Global Times and People’s Daily contradict each other. The People’s Daily sent out a tweet saying Dr Li’s death had sparked “national grief”.
However, Global Times then said he had been given a treatment known as ECMO (extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation) which keeps a person’s heart pumping and keeps their blood oxygenated without it going through their lungs. Global Times said he was in a critical condition. Journalists and doctors at the scene, who do not want their names used, told the BBC and other media that government officials had intervened. Official media outlets had been told to change their reports to say the doctor was still being treated.
Instead of confronting the virus and seeking help from other countries, China is resorting to bizarre measures. The province of Hubei, where the impact of the virus is the most severe, has switched off lifts in high-rise buildings to discourage residents from going outside while Beijing has banned group dining for events such as birthdays and weddings while cities such as Hangzhou and Nanchang are limiting how many family members can leave home each day.
Due to the Chinese government’s negligence and incompetence, the virus has now spread to 25 countries. Inspite of the surge in the number of Coronavirus patients, Chinese officials are more worried about the optics and have started to crack down on ‘negative’ coverage. According to the New York Times, both the state-run news media and more commercially minded outlets have been told to focus on positive stories about virus relief efforts, according to three people at Chinese news organizations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal directives.
Internet platforms have removed a range of articles that suggest shortcomings in the Chinese government’s response or are otherwise negative about the outbreak. In a country where independent media barely exists, and where state media controls all narratives, paranoia and confusion is not surprising and this has been seen in Chinese chat rooms. However, the crackdown on communication with regards to the virus has made the country and the world highly reliant on China’s state media. This is why suspicions are rising.
Meanwhile people dressed as medical officials have been out with guns in quarantined areas of Wuhan. The hospitals in Wuhan are overflowing with patients and many have died of Coronavirus without being admitted into hospitals or being registered as patients, and hence their death due to Coronavirus is not being counted by the administration.
The spread of Coronavirus is one of the Chinese government’s own making and it must own up responsibility for the same.