A doctor from a hospital in the Chinese city of Wuhan that was hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic last year claimed that he and his colleagues were prevented from speaking out about the virus.
A BBC documentary, which airs this week, noted that the doctor’s claim added to mounting evidence of the Chinese government’s early attempts to cover up the virus outbreak.
More than 200 employees of the Wuhan central hospital reportedly contracted the virus, and several others, including whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang, died.
The unnamed doctor told the BBC in the documentary “54 Days” that the spread of the virus during the early days was out of control.
He said the hospital’s respiratory department was full by Jan. 10 last year, but hospital authorities banned them from speaking to anyone, and wouldn’t allow them to wear masks.
“Everyone knew it was human-to-human transmission, even a fool would know. So why say there was none? This made us very confused and very angry,” said the doctor.
Previous media reports noted that Chinese authorities were aware of a likely pandemic for at least six days while telling the public it was low risk, before it eventually warned of human-to-human transmission.
Authorities were also accused of preventing the release of genomic sequencing results for several days, until professor Zhang Yongzhen published his online, against strict orders.
By the time Wuhan went into lockdown on Jan. 23, the Wuhan central hospital was receiving 2,500 cases a day, noted a report from The Guardian.
Chinese authorities continued to insist that the government quickly released all relevant information about the virus and has denied all accusations of a cover-up.
The BBC documentary, meanwhile, also examined the response of the World Health Organization, which stood by China’s assurances that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission.
China continues to battle the country’s worst outbreak since early 2020, although, reportedly, in far smaller numbers.
As of Jan. 26, China reported a fall in new COVID-19 infections as the number of cases in two of the provinces particularly hard hit by the latest coronavirus wave fell to single digits.
According to official figures, more than 4,800 people in China have died from COVID-19. Some commentators have estimated that the actual number could be much higher.