The virus, known as 2019-nCoV, was first discovered in the city of Wuhan, home to 11 million people and capital of the Hubei province.
So far figures show more than 800 people have been afflicted and 25 have died, and China’s government, which has tight control on the country’s media and Internet, has been showing signs of greater transparency than usual.
But citizen are wary, remembering how authorities covered up the SARS outbreak from 2002 to 2004, which – experts say – led to so many deaths.
The Chinese government has attempted to be transparent about the new coronavirus outbreak, but citizens are wary, remembering cover-up of the SARS epidemic from 2002 to 2004. Pictured: Chinese passengers, most wearing masks, arrive to board trains before the annual Spring Festival at a Beijing railway station, Thursday
When the first cases of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), first popped up in China in November 2002, the government hid it for four months.
It was not until late January 2003 that officials classified the disease’s spread as a potential spread and not until mid-February that they announced it publicly.
By the time it was contained in May 2004, 8,098 people had been made ill by the virus and 774 people had died.
China promised to be more transparent but the cover-up surrounding the new Wuhan coronavirus is oddly reminiscent of past actions.
Previous reports say the first case was reported on December 31, but, according to The New York Times, the first case was actually report on December 8.
Officials insisted the condition was ‘mild’, ‘under control’ and could not be transmitted between humans.
Even Wang Guangfa, a top government respiratory expert who told the media on January 10 that the Wuhan outbreak was ‘preventable and controllable,’ contracted the virus.
In fact, other cities in mainland China didn’t reveal they had cases until Hong Kong news media reported that cases of the virus had been confirmed in its region.
Posts about the outbreak have also been disappearing from social media.
The People’s Daily, the Communist Party-sponsored newspaper, posted on social media that Wuhan province was running low on masks, but it was deleted shortly after, reported The Washington Post.
In another instance, a post from Wuhan Railway, the commuter rail service, which reported that 300,000 people left Wuhan via train on Wednesday also disappeared.
The Times also reported that journalist Rose Luqiu wrote an article for qq.com, a news website by Chinese tech giant Tencent about steps Hong Kong’s government had taken to handle the virus – only for it to be deleted 10 hours later.
Additionally, according to TVB, a television broadcasting company based in Hong Kong, a group of journalists from the station were held after the visited the hospital in Wuhan, Jinyintan Hospital, that had the most coronavirus patients.
Police reportedly asked them to delete material they’d shot at the hospital as well as to turn in their phones and cameras so they could be examined.
The Wuhan coronavirus is believed to have emerged from illegally traded wildlife at a seafood market, with experts suggesting the virus was passed to humans from snakes or wolf cubs.
Almost all of the 25 deaths have occurred among older males who had pre-existing conditions.
According to the Centers for Disease of Control and Prevention, signs may appear as quickly as two days or as far as 14 days after exposure.
The agency says this is based on what was seen in the incubation period for Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), a cousin of the new virus that originated in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
There is no cure for the new virus or vaccine to prevent it, and the National Institutes of Health says research to develop a vaccine is in ‘very preliminary stages.’