China’s top medical authority issued a gag order after Wuhan labs sequencing coronavirus found it resembled the SARS virus that killed nearly 800 people in 2002-2003 back in late December, according to Chinese media.
Caixin Global, a respected independent publication, reported that genomics laboratories sequenced the coronavirus by December 27, but were ordered by local and national officials to hand over or destroy the samples and not release their findings.
Additionally, Wuhan officials deliberately did not inform a health team from Beijing during a January 8 visit that local medical staff had already been infected by patients, in an attempt to keep its contagiousness under wraps. The city then went ahead with its lunar new year celebration on January, which brought thousands of families to the city to celebrate, without informing people that coronavirus was transmissible between humans.
In recent weeks, Chinese state media has stepped up propaganda efforts to shift focus away from Beijing’s failures.
Zhong Nanshan, a pulmonologist who has made major announcements on Chinese state media, said at a press conference on February 27 that “the coronavirus first appeared in China but may not have originated in China.” Other media outlets have repeated or implied the same message.
On Sunday, Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić asked China to send “everything…even to send us doctors, [because] our doctors are already tired.”
“We will be begging [Chinese citizens] to come and help us with everything,” Vučić said, criticizing the European Union for refusing to export medical equipment to Serbia.
Alibaba co-founder and Asia’s richest man Jack Ma, a member of the Chinese Communist Party, announced last week that he was donating 500,000 test kits and 1 million masks to the U.S. to help fight the outbreak.