To talk about the whole situation, let’s bring the timeline back to before it even got started in China.
On December 1, 2019, the first case was reported in Wuhan. On December 8, 27 suspected cases were found around the seafood market in Wuhan. At first, they said the virus couldn’t pass from human to human and tried to find a similar virus already existing in nature. The closest they could find was a virus existing in bats.
On January 1, eight netizens were investigated and warned for “releasing and forwarding false information about the virus on the Internet without verification, causing adverse social impact.” In brief, they were trying to warn the public of severity and destructiveness of the virus, but they were shut up by officials. One of these netizens was doctor Wenliang Li, who will appear again later in the story.
By January 10, local hospitals in Wuhan were filled with patients, “suspected patients” were surging and medical caregivers were being infected. Experts finally admitted/confirmed that the virus was spread between humans. By January 23, Wuhan was in lockdown and established a new hospital within six days. The first cases started to be confirmed all around the world, including Japan, Korea, France, the US, Italy, Canada, Australia … the list keeps adding up.
At that point we knew things are already not alright. The mayor admitted that 5 million people had left Wuhan before they locked down the city. The Chinese New Year holiday was extended to February 2 and public gatherings were banned. On January 30, 62 countries limited the entry of Chinese citizens.
It’s kind of lucky this infection took place during the Chinese New Year holiday when people don’t need to work and won’t risk losing their jobs as much. Just like what is happening in the US now, during the epidemic, film and TV productions were stopped. Chinese citizens, including students abroad, were donating to hospitals and charities.
During this time government credibility was seriously questioned. First and foremost, toward officials in Wuhan. Why try to mute the whistleblowers? Why not lockdown sooner before it spread nationally and even globally? Besides, the Wuhan healthcare officials did not seem to allocate materials in time. They didn’t make a clear list of the distribution and lost the trust of the general public, who believed they had seized materials for their own use.
On February 6, Dr. Wenliang Li passed away due to coronavirus. A whistleblower who saw his patient’s report showed a high confidence level for SARS Coronavirus at the very beginning of this time and tried to warn his colleague. Instead, he was reprimanded for “spreading rumors.” He had been infected with COVID-19 in hospital by a patient, and Li’s condition became critical on February 5. The death of Li provoked considerable grief and anger on social media, which went so far as to demand a formal apology to Li. There are rumors that Li was treated badly after he was infected and was not given sufficient treatment. Perhaps we will never know the truth, but should hold memories of this hero.
Clearly, Li was not the only one got into trouble because of this. Civilian journalists who wrote about this at the very beginning were verbally warned, dismissed of employment and forced into isolation. Or they just went missing. Chinese authorities have launched a new round of crackdowns on speech.
By the middle of February, schools were transferred to online. The infection and isolation of a Princess Diamond cruise ship was horrifying to think about. COVID-19 started spreading in Japan, Korean and Iran. Things have come under control (to some extent) gradually in China. People are still staying indoors and being super cautious about their health conditions. Medical officials in China promise to pay for continued treatment.