OPINION / OBSERVER
There’s absolutely no room for cover-up regarding new outbreak
Published: Mar 29, 2020 11:18 PM

Body temperature information of visitors is displayed on a monitor of an infrared temperature screening system in the Yiwu International Trade Market in Yiwu, east China's Zhejiang Province, Feb. 18, 2020. (Xinhua/Huang Zongzhi)

Luohe in China's Henan Province reported a local confirmed COVID-19 case.  As a result, two asymptomatic infected patients in Jiaxian county were exposed. There was an uproar of public opinion. People worry about two things: One is how many asymptomatic infections there are in the country, and whether we have people like that around us, but neither we nor they know. The second is to return to the old question: Jiaxian did nucleic acid test on the two doctors on 25th, and they were positive. Why wasn't it announced? But the case in Luohe was confirmed, and the flow was traced back to them. Jiaxian just reported them? Is that a cover-up?

Regarding the first problem, it may be hard to have completely zero infection around us. There are very few asymptomatic infected people. But we don't have to worry too much about that just because there's a case out there. The screening in China in the previous period was fairly thorough. As long as the current prevention and control pattern continues, an infected person can be quickly found and isolated, large-scale infection is unlikely to occur.

The second question is about cover-up. We believe that there is absolutely no real room for cover-up in China right now around the new outbreak. Even if top officials of a certain level wants to conceal something, his surroundings and superiors do not have the conditions to cooperate with the cover-up. However, all rules have boundaries, and there are ambiguities around the boundaries. For example, should it be reported to the society as soon as someone has suspected symptoms, or when the case is clearer? And so on. Any hesitation or delay will be questioned as a cover-up because of persistent public concerns about official underreporting.

In order to reassure the public, we believe that the best way is to inform them early and strictly. To be honest, people are not worried about the occasional one or two cases that are very clearly traced. But there is a risk of a cover-up, which leaves a lot of room for imagination. For example, people are now asking if an asymptomatic patient is a confirmed case. Officials should make clear their criteria, lest more doubts linger.

Finally, we want to say that China is doing a very good job of prevention and control, and that our society is quite clean, which is probably the only one in the world. The government has the ability to turn the tide when the outbreak in Hubei was spreading, then it surely has the ability to carry on as it is. This is certainly easier to do than in previous national battle against the epidemic, and it is particularly valuable that, the vigilance of the government and the whole society has not been relaxed, and there is no reason for us to fall down again. 

The author is editor-in-chief of the Global Times. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn 


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