When it comes to the corona virus: the more we know the less we know. And rumors persist.
Is the Chinese government hiding information and/or dispensing disinformation? Did the Chinese government create the actual virus in a Chinese biological warfare laboratory? Did the virus come from a Chinese food and seafood market in Wuhan Province? Did Patient One eat a bat, a snake or a pangolin (armored anteater) and thus the virus transmitted from the flesh of an animal into a human being, morphing along the way?
More questions than answers.
What we do know as of Sunday, February 9, 2020, is that the Chinese government is reporting that over 40,000 people have been infected and, by the time you get to the end of this article, over 1,000 Chinese will have died from the disease. And based upon recent press reports and statements from academic virologists, the virus is not only spread through droplet infection (you have someone in your immediate presence cough or sneeze and the airborne molecules land on you and in you-most notably mucous membranes-eyes, nose, mouth-which is why some physicians state that wearing a mask is useless because the virus can penetrate the mucous membranes in our eyes); it is also now believed that the virus has airborne transmittal capabilities.
This is a deep concern for the 3,600 tourists that are currently quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that is harbored in Yokohama Japan and will be for the foreseeable future (maybe longer than two weeks).
Imagine being on this cruise ship, being confined to your cabin and not being allowed outside-yet the air conditioning and heating ducts in your cabin are pumping in the virus from your infected fellow cruiser. From time of infection until your corona virus symptoms appear, two weeks will have lapsed while you are unknowingly infecting others.
This is the stuff of some dystopic science fiction film where thousands of people die and Planet Earth is dispossessed of human beings.
As mysterious as the virus, how it started has every epidemiologist, virologist, physician and public health official scratching their heads.
US Senator Tom Cotton at a Senate Armed Service Committee hearing with US military leaders made the charged statement last week that the Chinese government actually created the virus in a secret biological warfare laboratory.
The Chinese ambassador to the US, Ambassador Cui Tiankai on “Face The Nation” news program, immediately dismissed Cotton’s charge as “crazy.” But who knows?
This would not be the first time that Chinese government officials have misrepresented the truth. Since the inception of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 under the leadership of Chairman Mao Zedong, official Chinese government propaganda is as common as wonton soup with a side order to fried rice.
Asked about Chen Qiushi, a citizen journalist who has covered the outbreak in China and has since disappeared, Cui responded "I have never heard of this guy, so I don’t have any information to share with you." (source: Face The Nation 9 February 2020).
And what about the Chinese physician who initially warned the government about the virus? He died last week from being infected with the corona virus.
A respected international journal, Foreign Policy, had a headline on their January 29, 2020 website stating, “The Wuhan Virus Is Not a Lab-Made Bioweapon.” However, just days later on February 3, 2020, the same journal’s website stated, “Chinese Officials Can’t Help Lying About the Wuhan Virus.”
If the Chinese ambassador states that Cotton’s assertion that the virus escaped from a Chinese biological warfare laboratory (either intentionally or by accident) is “crazy” and follows the assertion from Foreign Policy that “rumors about the corona virus are spreading faster than the virus itself” and yet we all know that Chinese officials deny that over 1 million Chinese Muslim Uyghurs are being held in detention camps in Xinjiang Province, who are we to believe?
The deceased whistleblower ophthalmologist, Dr. Li Wenliang, wrote the following social media post to a class of his Wuhan medical students on December 30, 2019: “Seven cases of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) have been confirmed in the South China fruit and seafood market . . . they were isolated in the emergency department of our hospital.”
Dr. Wenliang died of the corona virus weeks later. Another rumor: did the Chinese government intentionally infect him? We may never know.
And what of other physicians who were silenced by the Chinese government? Why has the government delayed the arrival of researchers and doctors from the World Health Organization (W.H.O.).
Here’s what we know: Hours after Dr. Wenliang posted, officials from the health department summoned the doctor and sanctioned him for sharing information. He was then compelled to sign a statement of secrecy and told his warning constituted “illegal behavior.”
Furthermore, seven weeks passed before the Chinese government locked down the city of Wuhan (11 million souls) and thereby enhanced the spread of what was originally thought was SARS. “In those weeks, the authorities silenced doctors, journalists and regular citizens for raising red flags,” “They played down the dangers to the public, leaving the city’s 11 million residents unaware they should protect themselves.” (Source: The Daily Beast, February 2, 2020; The New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/01/world/asia/china-coronavirus.html).
The collusion of the corona virus and the Chinese government? Reality, at times, is stranger than fiction.
Reverend William Devlin, is the CEO of REDEEM!, an organization involved in caring for girls and women who have been human trafficked. A life-long urban Democrat, Devlin is married to Nancy, and they have five children and seven grandchildren.