THE Chinese government SILENCED doctors in Wuhan who spoke out about coronavirus in the first weeks of the deadly epidemic.
After the first case of the bug was reported in early December, it took seven weeks for authorities to lockdown the city of 11 million people.
Coronavirus has now become a global health emergency and has killed at least 304 people and infected 14,380 worldwide.
And according to the New York Times, authorities in Wuhan punished medics who spoke out about the bug after the first case was reported.
Dr Li Wenliang made a post on an online chat group on December 30 referring to seven people who had been “quarantined” in his hospital.
One reply said: “So frightening. Is SARS coming again?”
The truth was that the bug originating in Wuhan is 80 per cent related to the 2002-03 SARS virus which killed more than 800 people.
Three days after the post, Dr Li was quizzed by police and made to sign a statement which constituted a warning for “illegal behaviour.”
The medic was also reprimanded by the local health authority.
According to the report, the Chinese government’s instinctive reaction to suppress information allowed the virus to spread through out the city – which is larger than London.
On January 31, Dr Li’s message was shared outside the online group leading police to probe eight people for spreading “rumours” about the bug.
DOCTORS PROBED BY POLICE
In fact, it has been reported that on the same day, Wuhan health officials announced that 27 people were suffering from mystery pneumonia and that there was no need to be alarmed.
Their statement called the illness “preventable and controllable,”
Wuhan was eventually locked down on January 20 and, in the seven weeks before that, officials only closed one food market – where the bug is believed to have originated – and did not clamp down on the wider animal trade.
Meanwhile, experts have launched a desperate search for the elusive ‘Patient Zero’ in the hope of finding a vaccine to stop the killer coronavirus from spreading further.
Researchers from all over the world are racing to find the earliest source of the infection as the first death outside China was reported in the Philippines this morning.
It’s thought that by finding Patient Zero their blood could act as a baseline from which to measure the virus’ behaviour, characteristics and mutations.
China’s health minister Ma Xiaowei has warned the coronavirus already seems to be mutating and jumping from human to human much quicker than when the outbreak first started.
The World Heath Organisation (WHO) declared the killer outbreak in China a global public emergency on Thursday.
Facilities in the city of Wuhan have been pushed to breaking point, with social media footage appearing to show hallways packed with patients waiting to be seen and staff stepping over dead bodies.
Other clips show exhausted medics breaking down in tears after days of working without sleep.