An article of Associated Press titled "Six Day Delay that Changed the World" was published by the New Zealand Weekend Herald on April 18, 2020. It alleges that "Chinese officials withheld information about the pandemic” and “set the stage for a pandemic". However, the views expressed in this article lack of common sense and basic logic, and the evidences presented are not supportive of the conclusion. The Chinese Consulate General wishes to take this opportunity to clarify the relevant facts, and hopes New Zealand friends will not be misled by this article.
In fighting against the Covid-19, both the central and local governments of China along with the public health systems, have fully undertaken their assigned responsibilities. The Chinese government has adhered to the principles of openness, transparency and accountability, proactively released information in accordance with legal procedures, and notified WHO and the international community timely.
Faced with the unknown virus, hospitals in Wuhan found and reported the cases in time, and the local government initiated the alerting procedures promptly. On December 27, 2019, Doctor Zhang Jixian in Wuhan firstly reported 3 suspicious cases according to the procedure. On December 29, the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control and related hospitals launched epidemiological surveys. On December 30, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission issued online an urgent notification ordering efforts to appropriately treat patients with pneumonia of unknown cause, and it was also aired publicly on TV. On December 31, the Commission suggested people to wear face masks when going out and not to go to enclosed public places or gather.
The central government immediately intervened in the investigation and notified the World Health Organization and other countries of the outbreak. On December 31, 2019, the second day after learning of the unknown pneumonia in Wuhan, the National Health Commission (NHC) expert team arrived in Wuhan to conduct on-site investigation together with local experts. On January 3, 2020, China began regularly informing the WHO and other countries and regions including the US about the latest development of the epidemic. On January 8, the pathogen was preliminarily determined. On January 12, China submitted to the WHO the genome sequence of the novel coronavirus, which was published by the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data and shared globally. On January 23, the Chinese government took unprecedented comprehensive, stringent and thorough measures to contain the epidemic, and closed the city of Wuhan. From January 21, the NHC has updated via its official website and new media platform epidemic information of the previous day on a daily basis. It had updated 93 times by April 22. From January 27, the Chinese government has begun holding press conference under the joint prevention and control mechanism of the State Council. As of April 22, 87 press conferences had been held on a wide range of topics, including epidemic prevention and control, treatment and scientific research.
Did the Chinese government cover up? As an English proverb goes, hindsight is 20/20. The AP’s article asks what the Chinese government was hiding from January 14 to 20. One need to make a judgment based on the circumstances of that time. Many factors must be taken into consideration for a government to decide whether to lockdown a city with a population of 11 million. How many people were infected? How contagious was the virus? How much was the fatality rate? Only less than a week has passed since the genome sequence was known and the testing kits were not yet available at most hospitals in Wuhan. As of January 17, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission had cumulatively reported 41 confirmed cases, among which 12 were cured, 5 in serious or critical conditions, and 2 dead. What was the difference between detected and actual cases? No one could give convincing answers. Could a decision on closing a city be made just because of dozens of cases? How could the local and central government make decisions when the fatality was quite low and some cases already got cured? It was normal for officials and experts to meet and discuss the issue internally given experts’ understandings and opinions of the virus varied. What the AP’s article depicts only shows that no consensus had been reached between the officials and experts by then, but nothing else. With the improvement of testing capacity and confirmation of more infected cases, the Chinese government decided to lockdown Wuhan swiftly.
Protection of its own people is every government’s responsibility. The New Zealand Government has done a good job in safeguarding its citizens against the COVID-19 pandemic. Its "Go Early, Go Hard" strategy has effectively controlled the spread of the virus and saved people’s lives. It is 54 days after the lockdown of Wuhan that New Zealand took similar measures, which has been regarded as "going early" and earned praises from the international community. The Chinese Consulate General also expresses its appreciation to the New Zealand government not only for what it has done in keeping all Chinese citizens here safe, but also for not deflecting its responsibility of protecting its people to the Chinese government. Obviously, AP’s logic mistake of blaming “China's six-day delay” leading to loss of lives of other countries is shirking other governments’ responsibilities of protecting their own citizens to the Chinese government.
The outbreak started in China, but scientists have not reached conclusion on the origin of the virus. It should be pointed out that China is also a victim of the NOVID-19. The Chinese government has shouldered its responsibility of protecting its own people by prevention and control of the virus. It has successfully contained the spread of the virus by adopting the most comprehensive, rigorous and thorough preventive and control measures in a short period of time, and has saved lives of large number of serious and critical patients by mobilizing medical resources nationwide to assist Wuhan.
At the same time, the Chinese Government has fulfilled its international obligations. It has notified the WHO and other countries of the outbreak in a timely, accurate and transparent manner, and shared the diagnosis and treatment protocols without any reservation. These protocols and methods, acquired at the cost of many Chinese peoples’ lives, have played an important part in saving lives around the globe. Unfortunately, the two months’ time window earned by China has been largely squandered by many countries, whose governments has not taken a "go early, go hard" approach. As a result, the pandemic has gone out of control, the public health systems been overwhelmed, and the mortality rates been high.