China Denies Cover-Up as Officials Admit Coronavirus is More Contagious Than SARS
Wuhan mayor says more cases expected amid fears of 90,000 infected in China alone
China has spoken out to deny allegations that Bejing has been covering up the true scale of the coronavirus outbreak, as health officials warn the deadly virus is now more contagious than SARS during the incubation stage.
The director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, spoke to mask-wearing reporters Sunday, admitting they know little about how the virus is mutating.
Beijing's health minister, Ma Xiaowei, assured members of the press that authorities have cranked up efforts to stop the spread of disease, however.
Xiaowei said "it seems like the ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger," adding that the administration will continue to halt transport links and shut down planned public gatherings.
According to Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwan, the disease-plagued city is bracing for a further 1,000 coronavirus patients.
Xianwan said officials are stepping up construction of specialized hospitals to deal with infection victims.
Yet top health official Gao Fu said the coronavirus is currently "not as powerful" as the SARS outbreak which rocked China in 2003, although it is becoming more contagious.
While SARS-infected people were only contagious when their symptoms were showing, coronavirus victims can infect others during their incubation period which can be up to 14 days.
Casting a large shadow over this morning's press conference was a video of a nurse battling the outbreak who claimed the government is playing down the volume of the infections and said the true figure is 90,000.
But regime authorities batted back accusations of a cover-up and insisted it had "followed the principles of openness and transparency" since the coronavirus broke out in Wuhan, Hubei province, last week.
And in a move to further project transparency, they announced daily press briefings on the threat posed by the virus starting tomorrow.
Ma said he has "maintained close communication with the World Health Organisation" and invited inspectors to examine the country's response.
He also revealed Beijing is sharing information with other nations after the United States, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Australia, France, and Canada all confirmed cases.
Ma's insistence of transparency came after the unnamed woman's warning from the heart of the outbreak.
Speaking in video footage seen online, the unnamed woman says: "I'm in the area where the coronavirus started. I'm here to tell the truth. At this moment, Hubei province, including Wuhan area, even China, 90,000 people have been infected by coronavirus."
Despite China being initially praised for its transparency in managing the situation, critics have now claimed that officials are scrubbing the internet of videos that reveal the true situation.
Critics have also claimed that many health experts who would have been able to warn the government at an early stage of the dangers of coronavirus have been detained or had their research stopped because they were not working within the Chinese state.
The accusations of a cover-up echo the furor surrounding the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic in 2002 when the government concealed the existence of the illness not just from the outside world but from its own people.
But Chinese officials told reporters that the new disease was less powerful than SARS - though it was becoming more contagious.
"From what we see now, this disease is indeed...not as powerful as SARS," said Gao Fu, head of China's Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, at a press briefing in Beijing.