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China Hid Coronavirus Dangers From Beijing, U.S. Agencies Find

2020-08-20 01:57:56

Communist Party leaders oversee an authoritarian system that inhibits local officials from freely sharing information with national-level officials, they said, and this has had deadly consequences for the world. It is a version of the so-called Chernobyl effect, where local officials avoid telling central authorities about a catastrophic event until it is far too late, American officials said.

Moreover, officials in Beijing have tried to spread disinformation about the origins of the virus. The C.I.A. has said since at least February that Chinese central officials were not sharing everything they knew about the virus — including a more accurate case count — or doing all they could to help the world prepare for the pandemic.

Public reporting has revealed wrongdoing by Chinese officials at all levels, but in different manners.

In early January, W.H.O. officials began concluding that officials in Beijing were hiding information, The Associated Press reported in June, citing internal documents and recordings. Central officials delayed releasing the complete virus genome and ordered laboratories to destroy virus samples. At the same time, they were trying to get more information from reticent Wuhan officials.

Throughout early January, officials in Wuhan and in the provincial government tried to suppress information on the outbreak, in part because they feared derailing the local annual Communist Party meeting taking place at the time.

Around mid-January, officials in Beijing began realizing the potential devastation. On Jan. 13, Thailand said it had discovered a case of the new coronavirus, alarming Chinese officials, who within a day began disseminating internal warnings of a pending catastrophe, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

A Taiwanese health official who visited a Wuhan hospital with other outsiders from Jan. 13 to 15 said an official from Beijing told him of potential human-to-human transmission, even though local officials were playing down that possibility. Two days later, the Wuhan health commission announced that a family in the city had the virus and that “limited human-to-human transmission cannot be ruled out.”


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