Rajat Sharma

The world must hold China accountable for hiding crucial details about Coronavirus

akb0210As the world struggles in its battle against COVID-19 pandemic, and the number of Coronavirus cases in India crossed two lakhs on Tuesday, more evidences have now come to light which clearly show that the Chinese government deliberately “sat on releasing the genetic map, or genome, of the virus for more than a week after three different government labs had fully decoded the information”.

According to Associated Press news agency, whose reporters carried out investigation about the origin of the virus in China, “tight controls on information and competition within the Chinese public health system were to blame, according to dozens of interviews and internal documents.”

The AP report says, “Chinese government labs only released the genome after another lab published it ahead of authorities on a virologist website on January 11. Even then, China stalled for at least two weeks more on providing WHO with detailed data on patients and cases, according to recordings of internal meetings held by the UN health agency through January.”

The news agency reported, “Between the day the full genome was first decoded by a government lab on January 2, and the day WHO declared a global emergency on January 30, the outbreak spread by a factor of 100 to 200 times, according to data from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.”

There have been speculations for the last four months over the actual origin of the Coronavirus. While the US and other Western countries wanted an independent probe to be carried out inside China, the Chinese government obstructed the move at the UN Security Council.

The AP news agency has carried detailed investigative report about the initial days when the COVID virus spread in Wuhan. It clearly exposes how the Chinese government deliberately withheld from the world genome of the virus prepared by their own scientists.

The report says, a Chinese private lab, Vision Medicals, had given detailed info about the new virus to the authorities on December 27 last year. The lab had studied first samples sent from Chinese hospitals, and had informed authorities the same day about the discovery of the new virus. The lab had pointed out that the genome of the new virus looked similar to that of the SARS virus.

On December 30, Chinese virologist Shi Zhengli at the Wuhan Institute of Virology also discovered the new virus and her team decoded the genome of the virus by January 2. When these scientists sought sharing this crucial info with the world, the Chinese National Health Commission in confidential memos to these labs asked them not to share the details with the public.

On January 5, two government labs also prepared the genome of the virus, while a Shanghai lab got full details, but the Chinese government firmly told them to keep them under wraps.

It was only on January 7 that the Chinese government admitted that it was a new virus. However, by that time, the virus had spread to Thailand and Japan. The first COVID death was reported on January 11 in China, and till then, the Chinese authorities sought to downplay the spread of the new virus with the World Health Organization.

China had, on December 31, 2019 first told the world that a new type of fever having symptoms of pneumonia has surfaced, and the nature of the virus was not known. In reality, the Chinese government was lying. It had the detailed genome of the new virus, but it deliberately decided to keep it under wraps.

The AP report says China had the genetic mapping sequence of the new virus ready on January 2, and scientists had warned that the new virus was deadly. The genome mapping was done in three Chinese labs and yet the Chinese authorities expressly forbade the scientists to reveal the truth to the rest of the world.

China deliberately withheld these info from the WHO for two weeks and allowed the virus to spread to different countries. It was only when people started dying in other countries, the Chinese authorities shared the crucial info with the WHO.

The agency report says, WHO experts had a detailed meeting with Chinese authorities on January 6, but no details about the virus and data about the patients were shared. The Chinese officials had the genome of the new virus with them, but they deliberately did not share.

It was only on January 11, when a private Chinese lab made the genome sequence public that the Chinese government released details about the new virus.

Had China shared the details in time, other countries could have put travel restrictions and contained the spread of the virus, and the process for developing tests, anti-dote and vaccine could have started earlier.

Now I understand why Donald Trump was right when he deliberately named it the ‘Chinese virus’. Had the Chinese shared the information in time, the world would not have seen more than 64 lakh COVID positive cases, and the lives of 3.78 lakh people could have been saved. The Chinese doctors who tried to tell the world about the new virus were disgraced, reprimanded and ultimately some of them died.

The world must now demand answers from China. One, it must tell about the real origin of the virus, and two, it must clarify why it deliberately withheld crucial information from the rest of the world. The Chinese government must be held unaccountable for spreading this deadly pandemic across the world. The world must now speak in one voice against China. Now or never.

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