15 Apr Chinese Embassy in Australia releases sanitised COVID-19 timeline
Ben Packham – The Australian – Wednesday 15 April
The Chinese Embassy in Australia has released a sanitised timeline of the COVID-19 crisis, arguing there was no “cover up” but omitting key information including the persecution of the whistleblowing doctors.
The move came after Scott Morrison ramped up his attack on the World Health Organisation, saying it is “unfathomable” the UN health body had given the green light to the reopening of China’s wet markets.
“We need to protect the world against potential sources of outbreaks of these types of viruses. It’s happened too many times. I’m totally puzzled by this decision,” he told Nine’s Today program.
The timeline only starts in “late December” of 2019, despite the first known COVID-19 case being hospitalised on December 6, and double-digit daily increases in the number of cases in Wuhan by December 17.
It also fails to record the “cluster of pneumonia cases with an unknown cause” detected by Wuhan doctors on December 21, or the quarantining of two of the city’s medical staff on December 25 with suspected viral pneumonia.
The timeline, based on one published by the country’s official news agency Xinhua, further omits the initial failure of Wuhan authorities to alert Beijing, or the reprimanding of three doctors who tried to raise the alarm.
The Chinese Embassy said it was highlighting “the facts” on the coronavirus pandemic, declaring “some politicians and media are spreading fallacies on China’s fight against the virus.”
It said the Chinese government enacted “thorough and rigorous prevention and control measures at the earliest time possible”, giving “precious time for the world to prepare”.
“As the WHO puts it, China has taken the most courageous, most flexible and most active measures, which altered the dangerous course of the virus’ quick spread and prevented hundreds of thousands of infections nationwide.
“When Wuhan was locked down on January 23, there were only 9 cases outside of China. But in late February, one month later, the epidemic broke out in Europe and America.
“Playing politics and shifting blame will lead us to nowhere. China stands ready to continue its co-operation with the rest of the world to beat the virus.”
China has been widely accused of failing to act quickly and openly enough to prevent the disease spreading, allowing it to become a pandemic that has now infected 2 million people and killed about 120,000.
Liberal Senator James Paterson said the Chinese Foreign Minister was “guilty of exactly what it accuses others of doing – playing politics and shifting blame”.
“Openly fanning speculation the virus might have originated elsewhere is dangerous and irresponsible behaviour. Thankfully, no one in Australia is falling for it,” he told The Australian.
Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching said Beijing was working hard to recast its role in the pandemic to support its global ambitions.
“Beijing has a vested interest in taking an active role in shaping the narrative around how the history of this pandemic will be told,” she told The Australian.
“The value of the information provided by the Chinese Embassy’s media unit should only be seen as being as good as that which it deliberately omits.”
Mr Morrison earlier called for greater transparency from the WHO, which has been heavily criticised for its pandemic response, including accusations its director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, allowed China to under-report the impact of the virus in Wuhan.
“Australia and the world will be looking to organisations like the WHO to ensure lessons are learned from the devastating coronavirus outbreak,” Mr Morrison said.