House Republicans Publish Key Findings on How China Lied About Coronavirus

China has placed about 56 million people in hard-hit central Hubei under quarantine, virtually sealing off the province from the rest of the country
AFP/Getty Images

Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee released an interim report this week that contains damning facts on China in their findings on how the coronavirus (COVID-19) originated and spread.

The report details how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as early as January 1, 2020, worked to obscure the outbreak of the virus in Wuhan, which wasted precious weeks and allowed the virus to leave China and infect more than seven million and kill more than 430,000 around the world to date.

Here are some of the report’s top findings:

1. China had cases of coronavirus as early as November 2019. After signs of an outbreak of a virus similar to SARS, China did not notify the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to the report, the earliest case of COVID-19 in China can be traced back to November 17, 2019, and in the following weeks, between one to five new cases were reported daily. On December 16, 2019, a 65-year-old man was admitted to Wuhan Central, a local hospital, with a fever and infections in both lungs. He worked at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, where vendors sold seafood as well as a variety of wild animals. Over the next several weeks, hospitals across Wuhan reported dozens of cases of a “mystery illness.”

By December 20th, 60 people had contracted the virus, including family members in close contact with Huanan workers but who did not have direct exposure to the market — an early sign of human-to-human transmission. By December 25th, medical staff at two different hospitals in Wuhan were quarantined after contracting the virus — a second clear and early sign of human-to-human transmission.

On December 27th, hospitals and health officials in Wuhan were notified by a local laboratory processing patient samples that the disease was caused by a new strain of coronavirus that was 87 percent genetically similar to the virus that caused the 2003 SARS pandemic. A hospital provided this information to the local branch of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC). At this time, at least 180 people were sick.

On December 30, Dr. Ai Fen, who ran the emergency department at Wuhan Central, received the results of a laboratory test identifying the cause of the illness as “SARS coronavirus.” Ai alerted her supervisors and reported the results to the hospital’s Department of Public Health. Ai then shared the results with a classmate from medical school, which found its way to Dr. Li Wenliang, another doctor at Wuhan Central, who warned more than 100 of his former classmates via WeChat that “7 cases of SARS have been confirmed.”

The next day, on December 31st, Chinese media reports of an outbreak of atypical pneumonia — a reference to SARS — cases began to appear online, including on a U.S.-based platform for early intelligence about infectious disease outbreaks. The WHO’s Executive Director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program Dr. Michael Ryan said he found out about the COVID-19 outbreak from this platform.

China never notified WHO about the outbreak in Wuhan.

2. The CCP immediately tried to censor news about the outbreak as early as December 31st.

On December 31st, the same day the WHO became aware of media reports about the outbreak, various technology services in China began to censor key words on information platforms such as “unknown Wuhan pneumonia” and “Wuhan Seafood Market.” Online messaging platform WeChat also censored criticism of the CCP, including “speculative and factual information related to the epidemic, and neutral references to Chinese government efforts to handle the outbreak that had been reported on state media.”

3. Taiwan raised concerns on the outbreak to WHO on December 31st but WHO did not tell anyone.

The WHO’s Dr. Michael Ryan said he received a request on December 31st from the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (Taiwan CDC), referring to news reports about the “atypical pneumonia” cases. He sent that request to the WHO’s China office.

On January 1st, the WHO formally requested a response under the International Health Regulations, requiring a response from China. The WHO headquarters instructed the WHO China Country Office to verify the reports.

Taiwan’s email to the WHO also noted that sick patients were being isolated for treatment — a sign of suspected human-to-human transmission. The Taiwan CDC requested the WHO share with them any relevant information, but the only response from the WHO was a statement that Taiwan’s concerns were forwarded to expert colleagues but would not be posted on their internal website for the benefit of other
Member States.

Taiwan’s government believed the evidence of human-to-human transmission was so great that on that same day, Taiwan instituted enhanced border control and quarantine measures “based on the assumption that human-to-human transmission was in fact occurring.”

4. China began destroying evidence of the virus on January 1st and hid the virus’s sequence from the rest of the world. 

On January 1st, CCP officials ordered the Huanan market to be closed and sanitized, which destroyed forensic evidence that could have provided insight into the origins of the outbreak. In addition, an official at the Hubei Provincial Health Commission ordered gene sequencing companies and labs to stop testing and to destroy patient samples.

On January 2nd, scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) completed genetic mapping of the virus but did not publish the data or inform the WHO. On January 3rd, the CCP’s National Health Commission issued a nationwide order similar to the one put in place by Hubei Provincial Health Commission, requiring that samples of the virus be destroyed.

5. Despite being notified on December 31st, WHO did not make public its knowledge about the outbreak until January 4th.

The WHO did not make public its knowledge of the outbreak in Wuhan until January 4th, when it issued two tweets, according to the report.

On that day, Dr. Ho Pak-leung, the head of the University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Infection, publicly warned that human-to-human transmission was “highly likely.” Ho believed it was already occurring in Wuhan, due to the rapid increase in reported cases, and warned about a potential surge of cases during the Spring Festival travel season — which lasts 40 days and had approximately three billion trips in conjunction with the holiday.

6. A second lab in China found the virus was similar to SARS on January 5th, but the CCP still did not notify the WHO.

On January 5th, a second lab in China, at a research institute in Shanghai, informed China’s National Health Commission that it completely mapped the genome of the virus and that it was similar to SARS. The CCP still did not notify the WHO that Chinese researchers had identified the virus, sequenced its genome, and that it was a coronavirus genetically similar to the virus responsible for the 2003 SARS pandemic.

7. The CCP publicly acknowledged the outbreak on January 9th but claimed there was no evidence it was “readily spread by humans.”

On January 7th, CCP General Secretary and Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly ordered officials to control the outbreak. On that same day, the Wall Street Journal reported that the outbreak was caused by a novel coronavirus. On January 9th, the CCP publicly acknowledged the novel coronavirus as the cause of the outbreak but claimed “there is no evidence that the new virus is readily spread by humans, which would make it particularly dangerous, and it has not been tied to any deaths.”

This announcement was 13 days after Wuhan hospital officials informed CCP health authorities the virus responsible for the outbreak was a coronavirus genetically similar to SARS.

8. A professor from the Shanghai lab shared the genomic sequencing data of the virus with the world on January 11th. Only then did the CCP announce they would provide it to WHO. The next day, the CCP closed his lab.

On January 11th, the first death related to the outbreak was reported in Chinese state media, as travelers from across China began to depart for the annual Spring Festival travel season, during which as many as three billion trips were expected, including millions abroad.

On that day, frustrated the CCP had not taken action in response to his January 5th warning, Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre Professor Zhang Yongzhen published his lab’s genomic sequencing data of SARS-CoV-2 on virological.org and GenBank, an open-access online database maintained by the National Center for Biotechnology Information within the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Hours later, the CCP’s National Health Commission finally announced that it would provide the WHO with the virus’ genomic sequencing.

The next day, on January 12th, the CCP closed the Shanghai lab for “rectification.” The Wuhan Institute of Virology, run by CCP leadership, published online the full genomic sequence of the virus it had completed ten days earlier on January 2nd, and the CCP finally provided it to the WHO.

9. On January 14th, the WHO continued to say there was “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission” as the virus began to spread around the world.

On January 13th, one day after the genomic sequence was transmitted to the WHO, the first COVID-19 case outside of China was reported in Thailand.

On January 14th, the Chief of WHO’s Emerging Disease Unit stated that “it is possible there is limited human-to-human transmission… but it is very clear right now that we have no sustained human-to-human transmissions.” The WHO tweeted  the same day that “Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.”

This is despite signs of human-to-human transmission from patients to healthcare workers in Wuhan, concern over human-to-human transmission from Taiwan, the public announcement by Dr. Ho at the University of Hong Kong, and knowledge that the virus was similar to SARS.

10. On January 14th, CCP leadership believed the “risk of transmission and spread was high” but said nothing.

A teleconference of high-ranking CCP leaders convened, including General Secretary Xi, Premier Li Keqiang, and Vice Premier Sun Chunlan. Internal CCP documents showed that Ma Xiaowei, the head of China’s National Commission of Health, informed the CCP leadership that the situation “changed significantly” with the confirmation of the Thailand case.

According to a memo by Ma, the CCP believed “the risk of transmission and spread [was] high” due to the upcoming Spring Festival travel season. He assessed that “all localities must prepare for and respond to a pandemic.”

The China CDC in Beijing triggered a significant health response, and the National Health Commission sent provincial health officials a 63-page instruction manual on how to respond to the outbreak, including requiring doctors and nurses to wear personal protective equipment. However, China said nothing to the rest of the world. Their instructions were marked “internal” and “not to be publicly disclosed.”

11. China did not announce any new cases between January 6th and January 16th — during an annual CCP political meeting. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of families were gathering for potluck banquets across Wuhan on January 18th.

The CCP stopped announcing any new cases of COVID-19 between January 6th and January 16th, during the annual sessions of the Wuhan and Hubei provincial legislative and advisory bodies.

The last case was announced January 5th and the next case announced on January 17th, likely indicating that announcements of new cases were suspended in order to not disrupt a major CCP political meeting. Meanwhile, families gathered in Wuhan for the Spring Festival holiday. On January 18th, 40,000 families attended potluck banquets across Wuhan — ground zero for the virus.

12. On January 20th, President Xi finally issued a public statement, and China confirms human-to-human transmission is occurring.

On January 20th, six days after he was warned about the possibility of a pandemic, Xi finally issued a public statement encouraging a strong response. The National Health Commission also for the first time issued a statement confirming human-to-human transmission of the virus was occurring, despite signs and warnings from local health officials to the CCP a month prior.

January 20th also coincided with the beginning of a delegation of WHO experts from its China and Western Pacific regional offices conducting a field mission to Wuhan.

On January 21st, the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed.

13. On January 22nd, the WHO conceded there was evidence of human-to-human transmission but declined to declare a global health emergency.

After the WHO delegation to Wuhan concluded on January 21st, it issued a January 22nd report conceding that there was evidence of human-to-human transmission but still cautioned that more analysis was needed.

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus finally convened the first meeting of the WHO Emergency Committee to discuss the outbreak. After two days of discussion, the Emergency Committee was divided on whether to declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

The decision rested with Tedros, who decided not to declare a PHEIC. He said: “This is an emergency in China, but it has not yet become a global health emergency. At this time, there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission outside China.”

14. On January 22nd, the CCP implements a city-wide quarantine and travel ban in and out of Wuhan, after an estimated five million people had already left the city.

The CCP implemented a city-wide quarantine in Wuhan on January 22, halting all public transportation in and out of the city. However, by that time, an estimated five million people had already left Wuhan in the days and weeks prior.

Over the course of the next several days, France, Australia, and Canada reported their first confirmed cases of the virus.

On January 28th, Tedros traveled to Beijing as part of a WHO mission and praised the CCP’s “transparency.”

15. On January 30th, the WHO finally declares a global health emergency — one month after it first learned about the outbreak.

Tedros reconvened the WHO’s Emergency Committee and declared a global health emergency on January 30th. At that point, there were nearly 10,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 83 cases in 18 countries outside of China. Three countries had already confirmed human-to-human transmission within their borders.

On that same day, the first case of human-to-human transmission in the United States was confirmed. However, Tedros still did not declare a “global pandemic” until March 11th.

16. The CCP has refused to share virus samples with the U.S. and stopped the Wuhan lab after it agreed to.

The CCP has refused to share virus samples with the international community despite “repeated requests.” On January 24th, CCP officials in Beijing prevented the WIV from sharing virus samples with a biosafety lab at the University of Texas medical branch in Galveston after the WIV had already agreed to share the samples.

17. CCP officials have blamed the virus on the United States and Italy in an attempt to shift blame.

CCP officials have publicly and privately criticized countries restricting travel from China. They also revoked press credentials from Western news outlets that were covering the outbreak. They also tried to get U.S. and German politicians to praise their response to the pandemic.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry official, Lijian Zhao, shared a bogus article on Twitter that claimed that the virus was brought to China by the U.S. military. His tweet was amplified by other Chinese official accounts. In late March, CCP officials implied that the virus originated in Italy.

18. The CCP manipulated their case statistics.

The CCP manipulated case statistics throughout the outbreak in an effort to minimize the significance of the spread of the virus and the corresponding number of cases of COVID-19.

Prior to mid-February, the CCP only reported cases that were “symptomatic, clinically diagnosed, and confirmed by laboratory tests” — leaving out a swath of cases that were either asymptomatic or not diagnosed in a hospital or confirmed by a test.

In mid-February, the standard was relaxed somewhat, showing 14,840 new cases in one day. By the end of February, classified CCP data showed that by the end of February, there were some 43,000 asymptomatic cases alone. It was not until March 31st that the CCP began including asymptomatic cases in their statistics.

In late March, Wuhan residents told Radio Free Asia the CCP’s official death toll of 2,500 was impossibly low, and the reporting indicated the Hankou Funeral Home received a shipment of 5,000 new urns from a supplier in a single day.

Seven large funeral homes in Wuhan were reportedly returning the cremated remains of approximately 500 people to their families each day. One Wuhan resident said many believed the actual death toll was in excess of 40,000 by the end of March.

19. CCP removed a citizen journalist from his home and may have disappeared two others after they published videos taken in Wuhan hospitals and crematoriums.

CCP security agents on February 26th went to the home of citizen journalist Li Zehua and removed him, detained him for 24 hours for “disrupting public order,” and forced him to quarantine until March 14th. He was then forced to quarantine for another 14 days.

Li had traveled to Wuhan to investigate the disappearance of another journalist, Chen Quishi, who the CCP had previously disappeared. Li resurfaced on April 23rd. However, neither Chen or Fang Bin, another journalist who was disappeared, have resurfaced.

20. The CCP also punished doctors who attempted to warn others about the outbreak.

Li, the doctor noted above who revealed on WeChat there were seven confirmed cases of SARS connected to the Huanan market, was reprimanded by hospital officials.

On January 3rd, four days after he warned his fellow doctors, he was forced by the Wuhan Public Security Bureau to sign a letter that accused him of “making false comments” that “severely disturbed the social order” and was threatened with criminal prosecution. He was one of at least eight doctors in Wuhan harassed by the police for publicly discussing the outbreak. Their punishment was broadcast on national television. After Li signed the letter and returned to work, he contracted the virus five days later and died on February 7th.

Dr. Ai, who shared the laboratory test confirming SARS with Dr. Li, ordered her staff to begin wearing masks on January 1st after a healthcare worker arrived in her Emergency Department from another hospital. That evening, she was ordered to appear before the hospital’s discipline board the next day, where she was blamed for “spreading rumors.” The board accused her of causing panic and said she “damaged the stability” of Wuhan.

On March 10th, the Chinese magazine Renwu published an interview with Ai on her first-hand account of her treatment and the CCP’s suppression of information regarding the outbreak, but within three hours, the original report was removed by CCP censors.

You can read the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s full report here.

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