China can’t be trusted with coronavirus reporting—SARS is proof
While WHO decided today that it was too early to call the coronavirus a “public health crisis,” the world is now keeping a watchful eye on China, where the virus first originated.
China’s track record when it comes to pandemics is not a good one. In November of 2002, an outbreak of the now well-known SARS virus—which is similar in nature to the new coronavirus—began in China’s Guangdong province, with a population in 133 million. The People’s Republic of China did not notify the WHO until February 10, 2003, reporting that 305 cases including 105 health-care workers, and five deaths.
The People’s Republic, in an effort to hide the truth from its citizens, a common practice used to keep up morale, discouraged the nation’s press from reporting on the SARS outbreak, and even hid reports from the World Health Organization.
China would even go so far as to prevent WHO teams from visiting the Guangdong province where the disease first spread, not allowing entry until April.
The reason for China’s shifty and suspicious behaviour of not disclosing information regarding when plagues and natural disasters (i.e. 2009 earthquake) could be thanks partly to a traditional belief called the Mandate of Heaven. According to the mandate, great disasters like famine, floods, plagues, and earthquakes were a sign from the heavens that the gods were displeased with the current ruler—reluctance to admit this to the public would often lead to civil unrest, as the masses believed the heavens were warning the people of the ruler’s illegitimacy.
The virus continued to spread throughout the world thanks to China’s inaction. In February of 2004, an elderly woman returned to Toronto from Hong Kong. She died after infecting her son, who would go on to spread the disease at Scarborough Grace Hospital, before himself succumbing to the virus.
If Canada were to learn from the past, the country would immediately and unapologetically forbid all direct flights from China to enter Canada. With the knowledge that the virus can spread person-to-person, it’s vital that the country delay the virus’ entry at all costs—though it may already be too late. Two Quebec hospitals are supervising five potential carriers, all of whom recently returned from China.
SARS eventually ended up killing 44 people in Canada, which would make it the only country not in Asia to have deaths from the virus.
We can now see that China is in a full-blown panic regarding the virus. The country has taken several massive steps, including cancelling the world’s busiest travel year, the solar New Year, in the nation’s capital. The country has also put three major cities into quarantine, a massive step which will prevent people from leaving or entering city limits. Plans have also been announced that the city will construct dedicated coronavirus hospitals in just six days time.
The origins of the virus have been traced back to a market in the Wuhan city center, but some have started to question this. With China’s history of dishonesty, is it really that out of the question that the origins lie in something more malevolent?
Take for example the Wuhan maximum security biolab which opened in 2017, one of many planned facilities of that nature across China. According to Nature, Wuhan built a lab to deal with “the world’s most dangerous pathogens,”
According to the Nature article, scientists outside China worried about pathogens escaping, and that “the addition of a biological dimension to geopolitical tensions between China and other nations.”
Whether this had any part in the virus will probably never come to light. But with certainty, Canadians and the world should be wary of any official information released from China’s regime.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Theresa Tam has said that the coronavirus will be nearly impossible to contain if the virus were to continue spreading internationally at the rate that it is.
Tam also said that Canadian businesses and individuals should prepare for an outbreak on near-pandemic levels, should that be the case.
“We are coming to similar conclusions,” said Dr. Vera Etches to the Ottawa Citizen Monday. “It looks like it is going to be more and more difficult to contain this virus and it may well evolve into a pandemic. That would change the efforts to contain every last case and contact.”
Etches, who serves as Ottawa’s top health officer, gave some basic steps that concerned citizens should follow—such as stockpiling non-perishable goods and needed prescriptions.
“Imagine if someone was ill for a week. What would you need?”
Dr. Tam went on to say that the risk of the virus becoming uncontainable has increased sharply since rapidly spreading in countries outside of China. “The window for containment is closing. These signs are worrisome.”
Within the country, both Ontario and British Columbia have confirmed that the virus has spread once again, with Ontario having briefly been coronavirus free after the first three cases were considered clear. In total, there are 11 cases of the novel virus in Canada.
Health officials are most recently tracking a woman in her 20s in Toronto who recently travelled to China, along with a Vancouver woman who recently travelled to Iran by way of Montreal. A man close to the woman also contracted the virus.
Iran is the latest country to endure a coronavirus induced panic. The Middle Eastern country now has 13 confirmed deaths, according to government figures.
In Europe, Italy is also in the midst of an outbreak, as 12 communities have been put on lockdown and a popular Venice carnival has been cancelled following six deaths from the disease.
Canada has so far been successful in the virus’s overall containment, being able to quickly identify and isolate those who’ve contracted the virus.
Dr. Tam believes getting out of winter, a high season for the spread of disease would be a big help for the country.
Globally, the coronavirus has infected nearly 80,000 people, with over 77,000 of the cases in China. Of the 2,618 deaths, only 23 have been outside of China, in 30 countries.
The deputy health minister of Iran announced that he has been infected with coronavirus and isolated himself after experiencing a fever. Iraj Harirchi posted the news via a video on his social media. This announcement comes shortly after Harirchi spoke at a press conference in which he downplayed the spread of the virus in Iran and said that mass quarantines were unnecessary.
Surrounding nations such as Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman recently reported their first new coronavirus cases. All the people who were infected were returning from Iran, according to The Guardian.
A flight departing from Tehran to Istanbul on Tuesday had a total of 17 passengers aboard who were reported to have higher than average temperatures, forcing Turkey to reroute the plane to its capital, Ankara.
This news confirms the wide-spread fears in Iran that coronavirus is rapidly spreading throughout parts of the country.
“I wanted to tell you that I got corona,” said Harirchi. “I had a fever yesterday. The tests came back positive last night. I isolated myself. Just a few moments ago, I was told that the final test came. I’ll start taking medicine. Generally, I feel fine. I just felt a bit tired, I had a fever, and it will drop.
“Be sure with the effort of the medical staff and ministry of health headed by the [health minister] and with your support and the state and military within the coming weeks, we’ll be victorious against this virus.
“We’ll defeat corona. Be assured. I’m saying this deep from my heart. This virus is democratic, and it doesn’t distinguish between poor and rich or statesman and an ordinary citizen.
“Many might get infected, but we have enough effective medicine, take care of yourselves. Take care of the nurses and doctors who work heroically.”
The country announced four new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday. Iran has been forced to shut down many of their schools and universites in certain major cities while other nations in the Middle East have closed their borders from Iran and shut down pilgramage routes to and from.
Meanwhile, Turkey diverted a plane from Tehran, which had been destined for Istanbul, to its capital Ankara, after 17 passengers were reported to have higher than average temperatures.
As the number of coronavirus cases rises in Canada the country is preparing for a possible pandemic according to CBC News.
Theresa Tam, the Chief Public Health Officer said that the virus is quickly becoming more threatening. The virus—now referred to as COVID-19—has mostly been contained in Hubei, China where it began but Tam noted that it is now spreading person-to-person in many countries.
“These signs are concerning, and they mean that the window of opportunity for containment … for stopping the global spread of the virus, is closing,” said Tam
“It also tells countries like Canada, that have been able to manage and detect cases so far, that we have to prepare across governments, across communities, and as families and individuals, in the event of more widespread transmission in our community.”
The outbreak has been declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO). They have not yet declared the virus a pandemic.
Tam added that the trajectory of the virus is still unknown and cases could have occurred in countries that lack the proper technology to diagnose the sick and contain the virus.
A pandemic response plan was developed by Canada in 2009. The plan includes research that is meant to eventually develop a vaccine. Tam also said that Canada will have a similar approach to its preparations whether the virus is declared a pandemic by WHO or not.
On Monday, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said, “As the window closes in terms of stopping the global spread, as we watch the WHO assess whether or not this is a full pandemic, obviously our attention turns more toward our domestic preparedness and what Canada can do to make sure our system and structures are ready for a change in our own population.”
According to the WHO, there are 77,362 reported cases of coronavirus and 2,618 deaths.
Outside of China, there are 2,074 cases and 23 deaths. Ten of the cases are in Canada.
WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that it is encouraging that the amount of cases in China is dropping.
The epidemic was at its worst from Jan. 23 to Feb. 2 and the number of cases started to decline after that.
“For the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus, and we are not witnessing large-scale severe disease or death,” said Tedros.
“Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely it has. Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet.”
Tedros added that calling the outbreak a pandemic may bring unnecessary fear.
So far, Canada has done a good job of containing the virus and detecting imported cases.
Tam said that there will be enhanced border control measures. Travellers arriving in Canada who are experiencing symptoms that resemble the flu will be asked to self-isolate.
British Columbia has recorded its seventh case of coronavirus, according to CTV News. This brings the total number of cases to 11 in Canada.
The patient is reportedly under isolation at their home in the Fraser Health region of BC. The patient is around 40-years-old and had close contact with the patient who was the sixth case of coronavirus in the province.
The sixth case in British Columbia was revealed on Thursday. The patient, who is in their 30s, also lives in the Fraser Health region. They recently arrived in Canada from Iran.
The BC government has said that they are attempting to reach out to everyone who has been in contact with the two known patients, whilst keeping their privacy intact.
Having said this, the number of coronavirus patients outside of the Wuhan region in China is continuing to rise, even spreading to countries as far away as Europe—potentially necessitating tougher containment measures.