First human-to-human transmission was detected on Jan 19, says China

Topics Coronavirus | China | Lockdown

A woman wearing a face mask as a precaution against the COVID-19 while using smartphone in a subway train in Hong Kong | PTI
A beleaguered China on Sunday exonerated itself from the global allegations of delay in reporting the coronavirus outbreak, saying the virus was first noticed in Wuhan on December 27 as a viral pneumonia and human-to-human transmission was discovered on January 19, after which it took swift actions to curb it.

A whitepaper released by the Chinese government gave a lengthy explanation to refute the allegations of cover up and delay by Beijing on reporting the Covid-19 outbreak last year in Wuhan.

US President Donald Trump and leaders of several countries have accused China of not being transparent in reporting the deadly disease, leading to huge human casualties and economic crisis across the world.

According to the whitepaper, after the Covid-19 was identified by a hospital in Wuhan on December 27, the local government called experts to look into the cases through an analysis of the patients’ condition and clinical outcome, the findings of epidemiological investigations, and preliminary laboratory testing results.

“The conclusion was that they were cases of viral pneumonia,” it said.

Researchers from a high-level expert team organised by the National Health Commission (NHC) confirmed that the virus was transmissible among humans for the first time on January 19, hours before they notified the public, and less than a month before the experts were alerted by the newly-discovered disease, it said.

Before January 19, there was not sufficient evidence to indicate that it could be transmitted by humans, said Wang Guangfa, a leading Chinese respiratory expert who was among the first group of experts dispatched by the NHC to Wuhan in early January.

According to the whitepaper, the NHC on January 14 required Wuhan and the whole Hubei province to enhance their preparation against the virus as “there was great uncertainties, also the ability and routes of the virus to transmit via humans still needed to be investigated with the possibility of the viral spread accelerating not being excluded.” Zhong Nanshan, China's leading respiratory disease specialist, confirmed its human-to-human transmission, saying that on January 20, two cases in Guangdong province were confirmed to be infections via people-to-people transmission.

Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), told CGTN TV network in April that experts, in a meeting on January 19, discussed the possibility of human-to-human transmission.

"As soon as cases of pneumonia of unknown cause were identified in Wuhan, Hubei province, China acted immediately to conduct etiological and epidemiological investigations and to stop the spread of the disease, and promptly reported the situation,” the whitepaper said.

In a timely manner, China informed the WHO and other countries including the US of the developing situation and released the genome sequence of the novel coronavirus, it said.

"After community spread and clusters of cases emerged in Wuhan, and confirmed cases were reported in other Chinese regions, which were due to virus carriers travelling from the city, a nationwide programme of epidemic prevention and control was launched,” the whitepaper said.

From January 3 when the virus was identified as unknown pneumonia, China's health bodies began updating the WHO and the US a day later, it said.

The whitepaper was released after media reports said that though WHO publically praised China for sharing information, there was considerable frustration among the WHO officials over not getting the information they needed to fight the spread of the deadly virus.

It praised the ruling Communist Party of China, especially President Xi Jinping, terming the containment as a strategic achievement for the country.

China will make its COVID-19 vaccine a global public good when it is ready for application after successful research and clinical trials, Wang Zhigang, minister of science and technology, told reporters in Beijing.

“The international community must find resolve and forge unity. Solidarity means strength. The world will win this battle,” the whitepaper added.

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