If you can’t trust a totalitarian government waging a ruthless propaganda war to tell the truth about the extent of the epidemic within its borders, who can you trust?
Add this to the growing pile of circumstantial evidence that China’s coronavirus problem isn’t as well in hand as they’d like the world to believe. They kicked out American reporters shortly before announcing that cases in Wuhan had dropped to zero, presumably to choke off the flow of accurate information about the true state of the spread. On the day that number was announced, reports to the contrary were already trickling out on social media:
On the very days when the national health authority was announcing that there were no new local infections, social media accounts in China were circulating photographs of “urgent notices” put up in residential areas announcing new cases and warning people to stay home.
EBC News, a Taiwan cable news network, broadcast two such photographs dated March 20, which is two days after China reported there were no new local Wuhan infections. One of the notices, after announcing the new cases, read: “Do not go out, or gather, wash your hands, be careful, hold on, hold on, and hold on some more.”
EBC also broadcast video of a hospital in Wuhan that it says was taken on March 19 and provided by a local Wuhan journalist. The video shows a reception area crowded with people, some of them on gurneys with IV drips, and health care workers in full protective gear, white suits, face masks and goggles.
Yesterday the Hollywood Reporter noted that more than 600 theaters across China were suddenly told to close after having recently reopened. Yesterday also brought news that some patients in Wuhan who had recovered from the disease and then tested negative later tested positive. Had they been re-infected by a different strain of COVID-19 or is China playing games with the numbers? NPR pointed out that Beijing doesn’t include those people in its official case count as “new” cases. Nor does it include asymptomatic carriers who test positive, potentially an enormous group. “Caixin, an independent Chinese news outlet, reported earlier this week that Wuhan hospitals were continuing to see new cases of asymptomatic virus carriers, citing a health official who said he had seen up to a dozen such cases a day,” per NPR.
Have asymptomatic carriers seeded a second outbreak that the government is scrambling to hide? Bear in mind, according to officials in Europe, some Chinese diagnostic tests are garbage. Even if Beijing wanted to be forthcoming about the extent of the epidemic, their own tests may have left them partially blind as to who’s sick and who isn’t.
Lotta urns flowing into Wuhan right now, says Shanghaiist:
One photo published by Caixin shows a truck loaded with 2,500 urns arriving at the Hankou Mortuary. The driver said that he had delivered the same amount to the mortuary the day before.
Another photo shows stacks of urns inside the mortuary. There were seven stacks with 500 urns in each stack, adding up to 3,500 urns.
Taken together with the new shipment, the number of urns on hand at the mortuary looks to be more than double Wuhan’s death toll…
Wuhan has seven other mortuaries. If they are all sticking to the same schedule, this adds up to more than 40,000 urns being distributed in the city over the next 10 days.
There are photos at the link. Reportedly people had to wait in line for hours to receive one, so great was the number. There are innocent possibilities for the shipment: Maybe Chinese cities are supplied with enough urns to last several months, encompassing all causes of death, even in normal times. There are also less innocent possibilities, of course. Were so many urns needed because the actual death toll in Wuhan in the first wave was much higher than the regime let on?
Or are so many urns needed because they’re afraid of how high the death toll might be in the second wave?
An interesting number from Bloomberg:
There were 56,007 cremations in Wuhan in the fourth quarter of 2019, according to data from the city’s civil affairs agency. The number of cremations was 1,583 higher than those in the fourth quarter of 2018 and 2,231 higher than the fourth quarter of 2017.
The official death toll in Wuhan from COVID-19 is 2,535. China didn’t lock down the area until late January of this year. If the height of the epidemic there didn’t come until 2020, how do we explain that unusual bump in deaths in the fourth quarter of last year — a number that would amount to more than half of the total number of deaths there from coronavirus to date?
Read this piece to see why China is so invested in its “zero” campaign. The numbers in Wuhan are a double-barreled propaganda opportunity to win a great-power competition with the U.S. Eradicating the disease domestically will be used first as proof that China’s authoritarian model is superior to the west’s in rising to great challenges and second as evidence that the virus’s spread abroad isn’t China’s fault, notwithstanding the early cover-up in Wuhan that allowed the disease to spread. If America is brought to its knees by an epidemic, well, maybe that has less to do with the severity of the illness than the weakness of America’s response. That’s the Chinese message, and why they can’t afford the world to know about a resurgence in Wuhan.
Here’s an amazing video making the rounds today in which a top official at the WHO, which has been a Chinese mouthpiece on coronavirus from the start, can’t bring himself to answer a question about Taiwan lest it irritate his masters.
It is an embarrassing scene. @WHO Director General, Bruce Aylward, hangs up in an interview with RTHK when he is asked about reconsidering Taiwan’s membership. Ironically, despite being so close to China, Taiwan manages to keep the #coronavirus infection and fatality rate low. pic.twitter.com/bFWRXpCyHN
— Ezra Cheung (@ezracheungtoto) March 28, 2020