Since the first emergence of the COVID-19 virus, all eyes have been on China in dissecting their role in spreading the virus. There have been many investigations, including governmental, international, and independent, to look into this issue. These investigations have not conclusively accused China of any willful suppression of information. But the question still remains, how far was China involved in the spread of this virus?
Some of the first cases of the COVID-19 virus were observed in Wuhan, China. The main accusation against China by the international fraternity was its misrepresentation of the threat of the COVID-19 virus. Neither did China put any travel restrictions for its citizens, nor did they alert the World Health Organization (WHO) appropriately regarding the seriousness of the issue. These shortcomings had a severe effect as they led to the rise of a pandemic in the 21st century.
Another one of China’s shortcomings was the silencing of whistleblowers, such as Dr Li Wenlieng. Dr Wenlieng was one of the first to blow the whistle regarding COVID-19. He worked at a hospital in Wuhan, China. Shortly after sharing his thoughts on the seriousness of the disease, he was visited by the police and warned against his online activity. Thereafter, he passed away after getting infected with the COVID-19 virus by a patient at the hospital where he worked. He suffered for over three weeks in the hospital before passing away.
Dr Wenlieng was also called upon by the Public Security Bureau of China for spreading false rumours online. Though the authorities apologised to him in late January, the apology came too late as the pandemic had already started spreading far and wide. If people like Dr Wenlieng were not silenced and were taken seriously from the beginning, the pandemic could have been controlled much earlier. Or at least, the world could have been informed of the incoming threat of the virus earlier.
Although the first few cases of the virus were recorded in December 2019, WHO did not declare COVID-19 as a pandemic before March 2021. The first four months saw the COVID-19 spread to 114 countries and over 118,000 cases worldwide before it was declared a pandemic. This level of inaction from the most significant body of human health in the world was shocking and saddening.
The brunt of the misrepresentation of the COVID-19 threat came upon the experts of WHO. They were severely criticised for not alerting international governments regarding the safety measures needed to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Things got so bad that former US President Donald Trump, during his time in office, cut off all the funding for WHO and accused them of working with China in the spread of the COVID-19 virus. He was also known for publicly calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus”.
The new US President Joe Biden has reinstated the funding. Since then, WHO has launched investigations to look into the origin of the COVID-19 virus and promised to understand the cause and help prevent it in the future.