Author Topic: As New Coronavirus Spread, China’s Old Habits Delayed Fight  (Read 469 times)

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As New Coronavirus Spread, China’s Old Habits Delayed Fight
« on: February 03, 2020, 12:03:24 PM »
As New Coronavirus Spread, China’s Old Habits Delayed Fight
At critical turning points, Chinese authorities put secrecy and order ahead of openly confronting the growing crisis and risking public alarm or political embarrassment.

By Chris Buckley and Steven Lee Myers
Published Feb. 1, 2020
Updated Feb. 2, 2020, 12:26 p.m. ET

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/01/world/asia/china-coronavirus.html

WUHAN, China — A mysterious illness had stricken seven patients at a hospital, and a doctor tried to warn his medical school classmates. “Quarantined in the emergency department,” the doctor, Li Wenliang, wrote in an online chat group on Dec. 30, referring to patients.

“So frightening,” one recipient replied, before asking about the epidemic that began in China in 2002 and ultimately killed nearly 800 people. “Is SARS coming again?”

In the middle of the night, officials from the health authority in the central city of Wuhan summoned Dr. Li, demanding to know why he had shared the information. Three days later, the police compelled him to sign a statement that his warning constituted “illegal behavior.”

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The government’s initial handling of the epidemic allowed the virus to gain a tenacious hold. At critical moments, officials chose to put secrecy and order ahead of openly confronting the growing crisis to avoid public alarm and political embarrassment.

A reconstruction of the crucial seven weeks between the appearance of the first symptoms in early December and the government’s decision to lock down the city, based on two dozen interviews with Wuhan residents, doctors and officials, on government statements and on Chinese media reports, points to decisions that delayed a concerted public health offensive.

In those weeks, the authorities silenced doctors and others for raising red flags. They played down the dangers to the public, leaving the city’s 11 million residents unaware they should protect themselves. They closed a food market where the virus was believed to have started, but didn’t broadly curb the wildlife trade.

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