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China admits its coronavirus response had “shortcomings”

Published on 04/02/20 at 10:06am

In a rare move, China’s leadership has admitted “shortcomings” in the way it has handled the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus.

The Politburo Standing committee said in a report: “In response to the shortcomings and deficiencies... we must improve our national emergency management system and improve our abilities in handling urgent and dangerous tasks. It is necessary to strengthen market supervision, resolutely ban and severely crack down on illegal wildlife markets and trade."

The virus is thought to have emerged from a Wuhan market that sold ‘exotic’ animals like wolves, snakes and koalas.

China’s handling of the outbreak has been widely criticized. People on Chinese social media site Weibo voiced their concern about how the government treated ophthalmologist Li Wenliang, who was the first to warn others that the new coronavirus looked like SARS. However, four days later he was visited by the Public Security Bureau who told him to sign a letter promising to stop “spreading rumors”. He was labelled a hero online.

The government was also slow to lockdown regions where the outbreak started, only beginning in late January, over a month after the initial outbreak. This has helped facilitate 150 reported cases outside of China. 20,000 people have been infected overall and 427 have been killed. 80% of the deaths are in those over 60 and many have pre-existing conditions.

The Coronavirus outbreak began on 12 December and the disease is thought to come from animal products. Currently known as 2019-nCoV, the virus is understood to be a new strain of coronavirus not previously identified in humans. It has been categorised as a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation.

This episode is reminiscent of the SARS epidemic in 2003 that spread to Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Canada; it killed 774 people and infected over 8,000. Chinese scientists reported that they had generated the genetic sequence of the new virus and it is a coronavirus that is in the same group as SARS and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus).

Conor Kavanagh

 

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