An ITV programme will show a secret interview with some of the Chinese doctors who were silenced (Picture: ITV / Getty Images / AP)
New evidence uncovered by a TV programme about coronavirus suggests China covered up the outbreak and stopped medics from speaking out.
An ITV documentary, called ‘Outbreak: The Virus That Shook The World’ and airing tomorrow, shows a secret interview with some of the Chinese doctors who were silenced.
Leaks of Chinese official data show the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in Wuhan can be traced back to November 17, 2019.
By late December, increasing numbers of people were in hospital with unexplained pneumonia, and medical professionals had discovered a new coronavirus similar to SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in samples.
Group messages circulated with news of the contagious new virus – but meetings were called in hospitals across Wuhan.
‘We knew this virus transmitted from human to human. But when we attended a hospital meeting, we were told not to speak out,’ one of the doctors told the journalist in a secret interview.
‘The provincial leaders told the hospitals not to tell the truth.’
Despite the risk of being caught, the medics revealed shocking claims of how they were silenced, had their passports removed and their access to the internet was restricted.
Despite the risk of being caught, the medics revealed how they were silenced in the new documentary (Picture: Hardcash Productions / ITV)
Chinese official data show the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in Wuhan can be traced back to November 17, 2019 (Picture: Hardcash Productions / ITV)
They alleged people who had knowledge of the outbreak had been detained by national security officials as they were about to board a plane to travel abroad.
State media warned: ‘The police will deal with the illegal spreading of rumours. Disruption of social order won’t be tolerated.’
Although the outbreak was not initially reported by the Chinese government, it was discovered by the World Health Organisation – but China further withheld the evidence of human transmission.
‘Many people said there was no human-to-human transmission in the early period, including the experts from Beijing. They all said the same thing,’ said a doctor on the documentary.
Another added: ‘We all felt there shouldn’t have been any doubt about human-to-human transmission.
‘Actually, at the end of December or beginning of January, the relative of someone I know died of this virus. Many of those living with him were also infected, including people I know.’
Although the outbreak was not initially reported by the Chinese government, it was discovered by the World Health Organisation (Picture: Hardcash Productions / ITV)
According to the Chinese government, there were no deaths until January 9, 2020.
But a senior medic claimed: ‘There were deaths every day in the early days.’
President Xi Jinping claimed the Communist Party ‘acted with openness, transparency and responsibility’ over the outbreak.
But doctors believe the authorities made a scientific emergency political, as they did not want to announce bad news just before a meeting of national parliament.
One medical expert said: ‘If from the beginning they had treated this matter as a matter of science and not a political one, it would have been much easier.
‘If there’s politics involved then nothing else counts. Politics always comes first.’
Despite clear evidence of human transmission lunar new year celebrations were not cancelled, to the surprise of scientists who feared it would become a mass super-spreading event.
A coronavirus patient pictured in Wuhan Hospital on January 25, 2020 (Picture: AFP via Getty Images)
A presenter of the state news broadcaster reassured the country on January 16: ‘Half a month after the official notification, and release of information, we can begin to relax. No clear human-to-human transmission has been found.’
But China’s leading respiratory expert, Dr Zhong Nanshan, went on national television and revealed the truth on January 20.
‘It is most likely transmitted to humans from wild animals,’ said the 84-year-old, who is an Edinburgh University alumnus.
‘However, now it appears that we have human-to-human transmission.’
Within three days around 57 million people in Wuhan and Hubei were in lockdown.
According to the Chinese government, there were no deaths until January 9 last year (Picture: AP)
Doctors claim the suppression of the truth continues even though lockdown has ended.
‘Now at the hospital, when we need to get online, we need to first get on to the internal server,’ said one medic.
‘And you need to use the computer provided — otherwise you can’t get any information. This way they can monitor you and see what you are up to.
‘Before, if we needed information about various illnesses we could easily go online to find it, but we can’t any more.
‘We can only search for information within our own departments, because they are worried that if we have information, we could tell others.’
Although a year has passed since the start of the pandemic, human rights groups allege authorities are still trying to cover up the extent of the coronavirus crisis.
They say people have been detained or jailed, or have even disappeared, after trying to work out exactly what happened.
Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, 37, was sentenced on December 28 to four years in prison for writing about the outbreak.
‘Outbreak: The Virus That Shook The World’, telling the global story of the first year of Covid-19, airs on ITV at 9pm on Tuesday.
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more stories like this, check our news page.
The Insidexpress is now on Telegram and Google News. Join us on Telegram and Google News, and stay updated.