CCP’s “strict measures” to contain viral pneumonia are not enough

At 2 am on Jan 23 (Beijing time), a government announcement shared on the internet says that all train and airplane transportations leaving Wuhan will be shut down at 10 am on Jan 23. All residents of Wuhan are not permitted to leave the city “without special reasons”.

On Jan 22, the Chinese Communist regime claims to impose the strictest measures in order to contain viral pneumonia originated in Wuhan. But many Chinese people with deep-rooted distrust in their government do not think that enough has been done since the first case of infection reported on Dec 8th.

Passengers with fever were allowed to leave Wuhan until Jan 21

On Jan 20, a 55-years-old woman with fever was allowed to leave Wuhan to onboard an airplane bound for Taiwan. When her infection with the virus was confirmed, she became the first case in Taiwan setting the island on high alert. Due to the lack of precautionary measures on China’s side, Taiwan has to ban tour groups to and from Wuhan.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) called on the World Health Organization (WHO) not to continue blocking Taiwan’s participation due to “political factors” amid the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus (2019-nCoV) spreading from the Chinese city of Wuhan.

The Chinese government did not prohibit people with fever or symptoms from leaving Wuhan until Jan 21.

Seafood Market linked to the virus was not closed immediately

The Chinese angry netizens also blamed the Wuhan government’s “silence” on this outbreak accusing them of “under-reporting”, “covering-up” and “missing the critical window for effective containment”. Most of the major reports and medical analyses on this virus came from experts outside of Wuhan, even though Wuhan boasts one of the best virus research in the nation.

After a relatively “silent” December, Wuhan officials started to release more official news on the virus infections in January. The director of the local disease control center and the hospital director, who treated the patients, appeared in public one after another emphasizing unanimously on the virus being “preventable and controllable” despite the fact that the virus is spreading.

Today, Gao Fu, head of the Chinese Center for Disease and Control and Prevention officially announced that the virus is from wild animals sold in a seafood market in Wuhan. The first report of virus infection, which came out on Dec 8, and a few subsequent infections were linked to this market, but the busy market was not shut down until Jan 1, 2020.

The latest numbers of infections published by the Chinese government as of 7 AM on Jan 22 (Beijing Time)

(Picture above) Red: confirmed infections. Yellow: suspected cases.

The suspicious timing of the outbreak

The pneumonia outbreak came at a sensitive time at the peak of the Chinese Communist Party’s internal conflicts fueled by the US-China trade war. Many suspected that Wang Qishan, the Vice President of China, might fall from power given his numerous corruption scandals.

According to Mr. Miles Guo, the 2003 SARS outbreak propelled Wang Qishan to the center stage of power as he “saved” the public from the epidemic. Crisis like this could make Wang appear to be “indispensable” compared to other kleptocrats.

Wang served as Mayor of Beijing during the SARS outbreak (Source: Wikipedia)

Wang took over from disgraced Beijing mayor Meng Xuenong when SARS struck the city in spring 2003, at which time he had only served as the Party Secretary in Hainan for five months. After arriving in Beijing, Wang took an open approach to the release of information about SARS to the public. In contrast to the lack of transparency during the administration of his predecessor, Wang called for a daily press release on the latest information about SARS.

Wang was confirmed as Mayor of Beijing in early 2004. As mayor, Wang also served as the executive chair of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG). In March 2005, during a local radio show, Wang apologized on-air to the Beijing public for an ongoing natural gas supply shortage in the city. The action won praise in the media and was said to have decreased the perceived distance between government officials and the public. Wang was known to be frank and responsible.

In 2007, he became a member of the 17th Central Committee and the 17th Politburo of the Communist Party of China; in 2008, he was named a Vice Premier of the State Council, in charge of finance and commerce. In 2009, Wang was appointed by President Hu Jintao as his special representative to chair the Economic Track of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue for the Chinese side.

Wang was named as one of the most influential people in the world in the 2009 Time 100 list.

George Osborne with Wang Qishan outside the Institute of Directors in London, 8 September 2011.

if the rise of Wang Qishan is linked to 2003-SARS outbreak, can the 2019-2020 Wuhan-pneumonia stop his fall from grace as a scapegoat in a power struggle? There are already advocators on the internet both inside and outside of China asking him to come to the rescue.

Preventative Measures Published on China State Media on Jan 22

Chinese health authorities are adopting the strictest prevention and control measures for the new strain of coronavirus that has caused a pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei province, as the pathogen continues to spread.

On Monday, 77 new confirmed cases of the virus — 2019-nCoV — were reported on the Chinese mainland, bringing the total number of confirmed cases on the Chinese mainland to 291, six of whom died, the National Health Commission said on Tuesday afternoon. Among the new cases, 72 were reported in Hubei province, two in Shanghai and three in Beijing.

In addition, 27 suspected cases were reported on Monday, bringing the total number of suspected cases to 54, the commission said.

Taiwan health authorities said on Tuesday a woman of about 50 years of age was confirmed to be infected with the virus, the first such case on the island.

In the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, no confirmed cases were reported as of Tuesday evening, but the number of suspected cases rose to 118 as of Tuesday noon, according to official data.

Wuhan, the center of the outbreak, reported 60 new cases on Monday and two additional fatalities — a 66-year-old man and a 48-year-old woman. Both of them died on Monday due to multiple organ failure, the Wuhan Health Commission said. The total death toll from the virus climbed to six, all in Wuhan.

Zhong Nanshan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and a prominent expert on respiratory diseases, said existing evidence shows the new virus can spread from human to human, and the epidemic may spread further, given that China will see a massive human migration during the upcoming Spring Festival holiday.

The source of the infection has not been located, and its means of transmission is not clear. Health experts agree the possibility exists for mutation of the virus, according to the National Health Commission.

Amid the severe situation, China is ramping up efforts in several areas. On Monday, Chinese President ordered that resolute efforts should be made to curb the spread of the virus, stressing putting people’s safety and health as the top priority.

Premier Li Keqiang chaired a State Council executive meeting on Monday to coordinate measures. He called for all related authorities to fully estimate the situation and increase cooperation among government departments.

Li ordered stricter preventive measures at hospitals and better protection for medical workers. The Wuhan Health Commission reported on Tuesday morning that 15 medical workers in the city have been infected.

Also on Tuesday, the National Health Commission listed the pneumonia caused by the virus among Grade B infectious diseases, a category that includes such major infectious diseases as SARS, AIDS and polio.

Currently, however, the new virus will be treated as a Grade A infectious disease, which requires the strictest prevention and control measures, including mandatory quarantine of patients and medical observation for those who have had close contact with patients, according to the commission.

At present, only two infectious diseases — bubonic plague and cholera — are classified as Grade A infectious diseases in China.

Wang Yuedan, an immunology professor at Peking University, said managing the new disease as Grade A will greatly help in its control and prevention. Some other serious infectious diseases, such as SARS, are also classified as Grade B infectious diseases, but have been managed as Grade A infectious diseases during their outbreaks, Wang said.

On Tuesday, Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang called on locals not to leave the city and people from outside not to come to Wuhan if there’s no particular need.

“Less human migration can reduce the spread of the virus, easing the pressure of prevention and control of the disease,” he told China Central Television.

Hubei Governor Wang Xiaodong asked on Tuesday for full efforts to monitor and report the outbreak. He said no delayed reports or coverups would be tolerated, and he asked for better public communication to respond to public concerns.

On Tuesday, the World Health Organization said in a statement that sustained human-to-human transmission may exist, and warned more cases of the virus could appear in China and outside in the coming days, given travel patterns and increased testing.

The Chinese government is sharing information regularly and working closely with the WHO, it said, adding that a team of WHO experts are working with health officials in Wuhan in response to the virus.

“The WHO encourages all countries to continue preparedness activities,” WHO China said.

Although much remains to be understood about 2019-nCoV, including how it is transmitted, the clinical features of the disease, its severity, the extent to which it has spread and its source — progress is underway, it said.

China, along with other affected countries, will attend an emergency committee meeting convened by the WHO on Wednesday to share information about the disease, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Tuesday.

Representatives from a number of countries, the WHO and relevant experts will make accurate assessments about the outbreak, Geng told a daily news conference.

A high-level expert team organized by the National Health Commission on Monday answered some of the most concerning questions about the new coronavirus that has caused the pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei province, which has spread to multiple provincial regions across China and some overseas locations.

Origin of the virus

Zhong Nanshan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and a prominent expert in respiratory diseases, said the virus very likely originated from wild animals.

Gao Fu, head of the Chinese Center for Disease and Control and Prevention: We have collected evidence that the virus is linked with wild animals in a seafood market in Wuhan, which was closed following the report of the outbreak. We have identified the new coronavirus in the market. We are not certain of the source of infection, as we have not found out which particular animal is responsible. All six coronaviruses known to humans, including the one that caused severe acute respiratory disease, originated from wild mammals.

Yuan Guoyong, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering: We should not eat wild animals. We must respect the life of wild animals and their habitats, because we share the same Earth.

Comparison with SARS

Yuan Guoyong: The new coronavirus is different from SARS, and the two viruses result in different clinical conditions and infectiousness. At present, it is not clear how the new virus will develop and how it affects humans, and a lot of work needs to be done.

Li Lanjuan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering: Since the SARS outbreak, China has built a very good disease prevention and control system, and our capacity to prevent and control diseases has greatly increased. This is why we successfully developed testing methods for the new virus soon after the start of the outbreak.

Zhong Nanshan: I am very confident the SARS outbreaks 17 years ago will not repeat. We successfully identified the new coronavirus within two weeks of the outbreak, and we have very good disease monitoring and quarantine systems. So I do not think the new virus will result in damage to society and the economy as SARS did.

Means of disease control and prevention

Zhong Nanshan: The best way to prevent and control the disease is to identify and diagnose cases as early as possible, and put them under quarantine for treatment. Various authorities, including those in health authorities, should take responsibility. For Wuhan, it is important to minimize the exportation of the virus. The city will take strict measures to identify cases at its airport and railway stations. Temperature measuring should be applied, and we suggest residents in the city with abnormal temperatures not leave, which is very important.

Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention: For Wuhan, all the public should act, and all government departments should join efforts for disease control.

Availability of effective drugs for the disease

Zhong Nanshan: Similar to SARS, there is no effective drug for the disease at present, but we are doing animal research and trying some traditional Chinese medicines.

Impact on the peak traffic season around the Spring Festival holiday

Zhong Nanshan: Now it is a critical state. We estimate the number of cases will continue rising during the 40-day travel season, which started on Jan 10.

Zeng Guang: We hope we can take measures so the number of cases will not rise too much and can decrease rapidly after the peak traffic season.

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Jan. 22, 2020