This photo taken on January 26, 2020, shows medical staff wearing protective clothing to help stop the spread of a deadly virus which began in the city, accompanying a patient (2nd L) as they walk into a hospital in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province. Photo: AFP/STR

In the morning on January 25, a recorded audio clip on WeChat went viral on social media. It was from a terrified and uncontrollably crying-female nurse from a hospital in Wuhan, conversing with her friend back home.

“The infection is much more horrible than it has reported on television. There are too many cases. Doctors estimated about 100,000 infected people. Each doctor has to treat more than 100 patients in a day. Many people, however, could not make it (died) – not enough hospital beds and medical supplies. Patients are begging us desperately, but we couldn’t do anything. They are dying in front of our eyes. We are all breaking down. I can’t take this anymore.”

A French newspaper, La Plume Libre, interviewed a Chinese doctor at a hospital in Wuhan. She said: “There are at least 90,000 cases of infected patients. The virus has already been mutated, and thus one infected person could spread to many others.”

Many leaked video clips, allegedly from different hospitals in Wuhan, have shown patients in hospitals left to lay down on floors with corpses next to them. “Doctors have been breaking down and desperately complaining about the inaction of the government and many nurses are nearly gone crazy,” said an anonymous hospital management person in Wuhan.

However, the China Daily, the government mouthpiece, reported: “There are only 1, 287 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus pneumonia and 41 deaths.” The same newspaper also announced that 38 infected patients had successfully been cured and discharged from hospital.

The Beijing News also reported about a virus-infected 56-year-old female patient who was cured in six days in a Shanghai hospital. “The epidemic is now in the early stages of community transmission,” Xinhua News claimed. “Taking measures now is completely reversible.”

“At the moment, there is no treatment at all, because this is a virus, antibiotics don’t work, they work only against bacteria, not viruses,” argued by Sarah Boseley, the editor of Health in Guardian.

“So, we really don’t know antivirus treatment. None of the flu drugs that we got, we have got a couple of those won’t work on this. Coronavirus is different from the flu virus.”

US Today interviewed doctor Michael Ison, an infectious disease specialist at North-western Memorial Hospital, who said: “There are no drugs that are currently approved, so everything now is experimental.”

Many Chinese netizens and Chinese experts are not satisfied with how the Chinese government has managed the issue from the beginning. Kunchok Dorjee, a US-based medical expert, complained that “China didn’t tell the truth of this new disease and its level of danger to its citizens. They did exactly the same thing during the time of SARS in China.”

The Daily Mail reported that China had arrested eight of its netizens and punished them for highlighting the early spread of this new disease in mid-December 2019. Guan Yi, an expert on viruses at Hong Kong University, argued: “I think we have passed the golden period of control and prevention.”

People from Xinjiang and the Tibetan areas have a different complaint. From January 22, all flights from Wuhan to the rest of China were canceled to contain the contagious disease. But, surprisingly, trips from Wuhan to Lhasa and Ürümqi, the capital cities of two major autonomous regions in China, have been running as usual.

To make the scenario worse, two female tourists from Wuhan proudly filmed their arrival to Lhasa and said they don’t care about the disease.

An anonymous Tibetan scholar from Lhasa did not hold back: “China deliberately let these infected people go to Tibet and Xinjiang, two most visible regions in Chinese politics to challenge against their ethnic assimilation.”

A female Uyghur activist from London, whose families are still back in Xinjiang, told me: “Knowing the reality that it is far difficult to control and treat the coronavirus in Tibet and Uyghur (Xinjiang) that there are far lesser medical facilities and transportations. China has deliberately exposed these two fragile societies to this dangerous disease.

“China always claims that Tibet and Uyghur are inalienable parts of China. If it’s so, why did they treat us as if we are less important than its Han people.”

For China, the security of the communist party is far important than the wellbeing of its netizens, especially during a time like this. The government is facing a severe problem of economic stagnation and ideological backlash from Western countries. So, it could be, perhaps, reasonable for Chinese leaders to cover up one’s weaknesses as much as possible to the cost of the ordinary people.

Kunsang Thokmay

Kunsang Thokmay (aka Darig Thokmay) is a PhD scholar in Asian studies at the University of Oxford. He has worked at many research centers such as Oxford Socio-legal Studies and the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics. His work has appeared, apart from academic journals, at Asia Times, The Times of India, Asian Affairs and The Diplomat, among others.

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