Associated Press (AP) has obtained an official document from China that showed the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials knew the severity of the coronavirus and the likelihood of person-to-person transmission on January 14, 2020. The government passed down instructions to local health officials to take cautious measures, but not to disclose it to the public. The government didn’t admit the epidemic outbreak and the person-to-person transmission to the public until January 20, six days later.
AP received documents from an anonymous source in the medical field and verified the authenticity of the documents.
A memo in the documents states that, on January 14, China’s National Health Commission held a confidential teleconference with provincial health officials to convey instructions on the coronavirus from CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, and Vice Premier Sun Chunlan. The memo does not specify what those instructions were.
Ma Xiaowei, Director of China’s National Health Commission, said at the conference, “The epidemic situation is still severe and complex, the most severe challenge since SARS in 2003, and is likely to develop into a major public health event.”
Under a section titled “Sober Understanding of the Situation,” the memo said that, “clustered cases suggest that human-to-human transmission is possible.”
“With the coming of the Spring Festival, many people will be traveling, and the risk of transmission and spread is high. All localities must prepare for and respond to a pandemic.”
Ma demanded officials unite around Xi and made clear that political considerations and social stability were key priorities during the long lead-up to China’s two biggest political meetings of the year in March.
The National Health Commission also distributed a 63-page set of instructions to provincial health officials. The instructions ordered health officials nationwide to identify suspected cases, hospitals to open fever clinics, and doctors and nurses to wear protective gear. The instructions were marked “internal” — “not to be spread on the internet,” “not to be publicly disclosed.”
In public, officials continued to downplay the threat, pointing to the 41 cases that were public at the time.
“We have reached the latest understanding that the risk of sustained human-to-human transmission is low,” Li Qun, the head of the China Center for Diseases Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) emergency center, told Chinese state television on Jan. 15. A CDC notice shows on that day that Li was appointed leader of a group preparing emergency plans for the level one response.
On Jan. 20, Xi Jinping issued his first public comments on the virus, saying the outbreak “must be taken seriously” and every possible measure pursued. A leading Chinese epidemiologist, Zhong Nanshan, announced for the first time on national television that the virus was transmissible from person to person.
Related postings on Chinascope:
- Hiding Information: Wuhan Central Hospital Did Not Allow Staffs to Talk About Coronavirus
- Hiding Information: Wuhan Newspaper Said Doctor Reported Infection Cases in December and Authorities Took Actions Immediately
- Hiding Information: Expert Group Members Suggest Hubei Officials Hiding Information
- Hiding Information: Residents Shouted “Fake” When Sun Chunlan Visited a Residential Neighborhood
- Hiding Information: Xi’an Confirmed a Local Infection but Its Province Reported Zero
Source: Associated Press, April 15, 2020