A blogger in Wuhan, China, said state media outlets in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic were peddling information that COVID-19 couldn’t be passed between people.
“My daughter returned from a holiday in Japan on January 22, two days after it had been revealed that the novel coronavirus in Wuhan was being spread from human to human,” Fang Fang writes in an excerpt of her upcoming book “Wuhan Diary” published by the UK’s Sunday Times.
“Official media sources had consistently been telling us it was ‘not contagious between people; it’s controllable and preventable.’”
Fang — an award-winning poet and fiction writer who blogged about her experiences in Wuhan during the virus — said she went to pick up her daughter at the airport and she found the streets nearly free of cars or pedestrians.
“Those few days were when panic and fright were at their height in the city. We both wore face masks. The anxiety and stress that were permeating the entire city were also there in the car with us,” she wrote.
“I dropped my daughter off at her place and didn’t get home until 1 am. I turned on the computer and immediately saw the news: quarantine would be going into effect imminently.”
Fang, 65, originally published her writings on social media sites WeChat and Weibo, but they were quickly deleted by censors.
Still her diary went viral, and will be published as an English-language book in June.
She said that by Jan. 25, state-run media reported that top-level Chinese leaders were closely monitoring the outbreak and a team of medical experts had arrived to Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, from Shanghai.
“But that was also when the period of true suffering arrived here in Wuhan the number of people infected with the coronavirus exploded. The hospital system was brought to the brink of collapse. The infected ended up traipsing all over the city, in the wind and rain, searching in vain for treatment. We all felt completely helpless in the face of these patients crying out, desperate for help,” she wrote.
Writing on Feb. 1, she said her older brother who teaches at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, first told her about how contagious the coronavirus could be.
“On December 31, he forwarded to me an essay entitled ‘Suspected Case of Virus of Unknown Origin in Wuhan.’ However, it wasn’t long before the official government line came down: ‘Not contagious between people; it’s controllable and preventable.’ As soon as we heard that, everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief,” she wrote.