Reliable evidence as to how the disease was seen to be behaving and how the Chinese authorities were hiding it has come to light.

Cities and villages locked down. Uncertainty and fear everywhere. An invisible enemy inside the gates, killing more and more of our people. How could this possibly have happened?
On 25 March 2020 the Chinese Embassy spokesman in New Delhi told us what to think.
He announced that early on in the outbreak of Covid-19, Beijing had adopted timely measures to control it; had provided updates to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and had taken a decisive decision (sic) to quarantine Wuhan to prevent the spread of the epidemic.
Now, let us consider the facts; events as they actually happened on the ground. Information used here comes from Chinese sources and reflects no bias against the people of China, the innocent victims of their unelected and unaccountable rulers, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Cases of infection later attributed to a new virus called Covid-19 were first recorded in Wuhan in mid-November 2019. From mid-December it became increasingly clear that the disease was spreading from human to human (HTH).
From the earliest days the CCP authorities imposed secrecy and censorship. Word of the outbreak was suppressed, would-be whistleblowers forced to keep silence on pain of legal punishment, and no attempt made to warn the public or take protective action.
But censorship and secrecy failed. Reliable evidence as to how the disease was seen to be behaving and how the authorities were hiding it has come to light. When these facts are set alongside reports of actions and statements by officials and political leaders, a clear picture emerges.
It is, sadly, rather a familiar one. For several months after the 2002 SARS outbreak (very similar in nature and origin to Covid-19) began in south China, the CCP tried to hide it, causing the avoidable deaths of hundreds of their citizens, including many medical staff. This time comparable attempts at concealment inevitably failed as the Covid-19 epidemic, under the eyes of experts on SARS, spread far faster and more widely.
For since the time of SARS, several of China’s finest virologists and epidemiologists have worked in Wuhan. They were quick to spot the salient features of the diseases, including transmission between people.
On 31 December, the authorities finally declared the outbreak to the WHO. Evidence for HTH was not provided. That day the official Xinhua News Agency reported that there were “no signs of HTH transmission”. The public, beginning to prepare for the Lunar New Year, were deliberately left completely in the dark.
In the first two to three weeks of January 2020, at the stage when the disease began to spread out of control, the authorities suppressed data on the rapid daily increase in registered cases. Despite knowing what lay ahead, senior local officials continued planning for large-scale civic celebrations and a major political meeting.
Back in Beijing, Party publications were later to state that on 7 January, CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping, chairing a meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee (the CCP’s seven top leaders) personally directed actions to contain and control the virus.
It is unclear what precisely these actions might have been. At any rate, they did not include measures to stop crowds flooding into Wuhan, despite the danger there; nor to prevent the departure from the city of a further 5 million people, among them certainly some, probably many, infected by Covid-19. The then Mayor of Wuhan himself publicly revealed the figure of 5 million departing travellers just before the CCP sacked him at the end of January. This unhindered exodus caused the pandemic to develop.
Meanwhile, after a WHO official commented on 14 January that HTH transmission had been detected, the WHO leadership immediately denied that there was any evidence of this. Wuhan medical authorities confirmed it on 16 January, and gave a public warning on 18 January. That was the night when Wuhan celebrated an annual public banquet, this year with around 40,000 guests. Only a few days later, many were in quarantine.
On 20 January, Xi Jinping made his first public statement on the epidemic, stressing “the need for timely release of information”. This must be one of the oddest ever made by a national leader, especially one so keen to promote an image of omniscient control. The draconian lockdown of Wuhan, which followed on 22 January, was of course far too late.
And what of the WHO? They failed to declare an international emergency on 23 January, on the grounds that HTH transmission was “limited”. On 30 January, when cases of Covid-19 infection were being confirmed in several countries overseas, their belated declaration merely confirmed what had been obvious for weeks.
So let us take the words of spokesmen for the CCP with the caveats they deserve. The Covid-19 outbreak originated in China. The Chinese government was the first to know of it. And for failing to share their knowledge promptly and ensure full international support for effective containment, the CCP’s responsibility for the resultant pandemic will go down in history.
Matthew Henderson is Director, Asia Studies Centre, The Henry Jackson Society, London, UK

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