Coronavirus: Wuhan Mayor Admits 'Withholding Info' - 5 Million Fled Before Lockdown
Five million people left Chinese city before quarantine, transmission now 'large scale'
The mayor of Wuhan - the Chinese city at the center of the deadly coronavirus outbreak - has admitted to "withholding information" about the crisis, revealing that five million people left the city before it was placed on lockdown.
Mayor Zhou Xianwang confessed that his team held back vital information about the situation and failed to alert the public "in time."
Speaking during an interview with state broadcaster CCTV, Zhou also revealed that health officials are seeing human-to-human transmission of the killer virus "on a large scale."
Mr. Zhou disclosed that around five million Wuhan residents managed to flee the city before the area was quarantined last Thursday.
China on Tuesday reported 25 more deaths from the new viral disease, raising the total to at least 106.
Authorities have been forced to quarantine at least 56 million people living in central China's Hubei Province due to the health crisis while canceling the Lunar New Year festivities around the country.
Mayor Zhou, 56, made the worrying confession after being widely accused of covering up the truth of the epidemic.
The mayor revealed that his office needs to receive authorization from high above before making any announcements regarding the novel coronavirus.
"On one hand, we did not reveal [information] in time; on the other, we did not use effective information to improve our work to a satisfactory level," Mr. Zhou said during the interview.
Zhou says he hopes the public can understand his government's decision.
"Regarding the untimely disclosure, [I] hope everyone can understand," he said.
"[Coronavirus] is a contagious disease. Contagious diseases have relevant law and information needs to be disclosed according to law."
He then explained the restrictions his city's government faces.
"As [the head of] a local government, after I receive the information, [I] can only release it after being authorized," he said.
"[Many people] could not understand this at the time."
Mr. Zhou declared that he and the Communist Party Secretary of Wuhan are willing to resign in exchange for public forgiveness.
Increasingly drastic anti-disease efforts began with the January 22 suspension of plane, train and bus links to Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in central China where the virus was first detected last month.
That lockdown has expanded to a total of 17 cities with more than 50 million people in the most far-reaching disease-control measures ever imposed.
Tens of millions of people had been due to crowd into planes, trains, and buses to return to work after visiting their hometowns or tourist sites for the Lunar New Year holiday, China's busiest travel season.
Schools will postpone reopening until further notice, the Cabinet said.
The spread of the illness is being watched around the globe, with a small number of cases appearing in several other countries.
South Korea confirmed its fourth case Monday.
Scattered cases also have been confirmed in Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, the U.S., Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal, France, Canada, and Australia.
China also reported five cases in Hong Kong and two in Macao.