TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — University of Hong Kong microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung (袁國勇) has accused Beijing of covering up the scale of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan by destroying physical evidence in early January.
In a BBC special titled "Panorama: China's Coronavirus Cover-Up," which aired Monday (July 27), Yuen and several other health experts from around the world shared their knowledge of the deadly outbreak.
As one of the leading doctors to investigate coronavirus cases in Wuhan in the early days of the outbreak, Yuen said he believes Chinese officials intentionally delayed responding to clinical findings in order to downplay the seriousness of the situation. He said he had informed the authorities about human-to-human transmission on Jan. 12 after receiving patients in Shenzhen, about 700 miles from Wuhan, but that his warning was not relayed until Jan. 20.
Yuen pointed out that the Huanan seafood market, where the coronavirus was believed to have originated, had already been cleaned by the time he and other Chinese experts, including renowned pulmonologist Zhong Nanshan (鍾南山), visited Wuhan on Jan. 17. He compared the aggressive clean-up to a "crime scene" being "disturbed" and said he and his colleagues were unable to identify any animal host of the virus because there was "nothing to see."
Invoking the SARS outbreak of 2002-2004 to stress the importance of a quick response, Yuen said the crisis had taught him that any delay could lead to catastrophic consequences. He estimated that the number of COVID-19 cases could have been reduced by 95 percent if the Chinese government had intervened at the beginning of January the way it did weeks later.
International health experts have criticized Beijing for its belated initial response to the outbreak and for silencing doctors who tried to warn the world about the disease as early as December. China has denied these accusations, claiming it has dealt with the pandemic with "openness and transparency," RFI reported.