New evidence of how Beijing covered up outbreak

Published by The Mail on Sunday (June 7th 2020)

Fresh evidence of China’s shocking cover-up of the pandemic outbreak has been found in censored media reports from Wuhan.

Samples taken from sick patients and analysed by at least five laboratories had confirmed the existence of a lethal new coronavirus before China told global health authorities about an infectious disease that it claimed was unidentified.

The reports obtained by The Mail on Sunday reveal that one team even found the virus was ‘clearly contagious’ while others had unravelled its genetic composition – vital for developing diagnostic tests and vaccines.

Yet it took a further ten days for officials to admit there was a novel coronavirus and three weeks before Beijing confirmed on January 20 that it was spread by humans.

‘China knew the new virus was prevalent last December but failed to inform the public or share with the international community,’ said Lianchao Han, a pro-democracy activist. ‘Its irresponsibility has probably worsened this pandemic.’

The revelations are contained in a long investigation by Caixin, an independent media group. 

The Chinese-language report has been removed online, although a shorter English version lacking key details remains accessible.

This original report shows that before December 31 – when China informed the World Health Organisation about a mysterious ‘pneumonia-like’ disease – nine samples from patients had been sent to laboratories around the country. 

One sample from a 65-year-old delivery man taken to hospital on December 18 went to a diagnostic centre run by a genomics company in Guangzhou, southern China.

The firm was so concerned about its findings that it telephoned the Wuhan hospital on December 27 to sound the alarm, then sent its most senior staff to the city. 

‘They just called us and said it was a new coronavirus,’ said one doctor.

Caixin also found a social media post by a researcher at a private firm in Guangzhou that said they instantly realised the pathogen resembled the bat-borne Sars coronavirus that sparked an epidemic in 2003. 

Caixin said the laboratory ‘assembled a nearly complete viral genome sequence’ on December 27 and passed data to the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.

Another medical laboratory testing a Wuhan patient’s sample warned ‘the virus is transmitted by close-range droplet transmission or contact with the respiratory secretions of patients’, and it was ‘clearly contagious’. 

A third firm testing a sample completed gene-sequencing on December 29, which showed high similarity to Sars, although testing confirmed it was a different disease.

The MoS reported two months ago that Shi Zhengli, the scientist known as Bat Woman for her sample-hunting expeditions in caves, was muzzled after completing gene-sequencing on January 2 at Wuhan Institute of Virology.

We also revealed the institute’s director passed on a warning from the National Health Commission not to publicise tests or data. 

Caixin confirmed there was an order banning publication of any information about ‘results of pathogen testing or experimental activities’ without official consent.

Eight days later, the sequence was published on an open-access platform on behalf of a Shanghai professor. His laboratory was shut down for ‘rectification’.

Chinese officials then released the genome but failed to admit human transmission until January 20. Caixin found the earliest sequence was collected on December 24 – and it matched a screenshot in the social-media posting.

Leaked recordings of WHO meetings last week revealed dismay over China’s failure to share data, even as the body praised its response in public.

One study found that if China had acted three weeks faster, it would have cut cases by 95 per cent.

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