The recent Chinese virus outbreak is now proving to be extremely inconvenient for the government as their competence is in question. As of now, the infection has killed at least nine people with 400 currently affected, and the numbers are continually growing.
The outbreak originated in Wuhan that houses 11 million residents who are now under official restrictions of travelling outside and the animals in the vicinity are being tested continuously to tackle the issue.
Source: Sky News
Schools are closing down, temples are not allowing locals to enter and overall, it is quite a hectic situation especially because the Lunar New Year is underway with at least 3 billion trips booked across the country to celebrate the festival.
The lack of awareness has infuriated thousands of citizens who are now taking their anger to social media and expressing major distrust in the government.
Seventeen years ago, China faced a similar situation with SARS outbreak that killed almost 800 people across Asia, and it was partly due to the Chinese government keeping the virus a secret.
The health ministry faced severe backlash for postponing the official statement that harmed hundreds of people, but it is clear that it had no effect and Chinese medical authorities are repeating the same mistake with the new virus.
The backlash on the internet took a toll when the US confirmed that the virus attacked a person who had recently returned from China. The issue is now being addressed globally and people are asking the authorities to be more transparent this time as the fatalities continue to grow.
Airports abroad have said that they would screen all the passengers arriving from Wuhan to prevent further spread but what is the role of the ruling Communist Party in this?
Source: ABC News Source: The Star Online
Residents of Wuhan are helpless as they continue to use measures like masks and
finger gloves to avoid direct contact. However, the government has not taken any serious measure to eradicate the virus.
Messages have been circulating on Weibo (China’s Twitter service) and WeChat, the most popular messaging application, and one update from Beijing News calling out the government to be more transparent about the Wuhan virus has gathered around 100000 views.
The ruling party has been accused of removing coverage by foreign media as reported by Fu King-Wa, an associate professor at Hong Kong University, Journalism and Media studies centre.
He said, “In 2020, it's different than 2003 with SARS. There was no Weibo, no WeChat. Now we can imagine that no matter if they're true or false, these messages will spread very fast. This kind of misinformation, it's impossible to control". And he’s not wrong.
The government charged eight people for spreading wrong information regarding the Chinese virus but the officials failed to provide a strategy to deal with the outbreak.
One user on Weibo said, “People don't realise how serious this outbreak is because the local government wasn't transparent enough”. The Beijing News asked the authorities to “start offering better explanation”, and this post went viral across the social platforms.
The fact that residents are using social media to find statistics and information about the virus says a lot about how the government has responded to the issue. Memes, a medium that thrives in all kinds of situations were also circulated ridiculing the measures that people are forced to take due to the incompetence of the government.
Since Tuesday, the game involving the spread of a virus in the world to wipe out humans became the most downloaded paid app on the Chinese Apple Store.
China’s healthy commission, after intense pressure, stated on Monday that they would present the strategies and measures to deal with the outbreak of the virus, and classified it as a class B infectious disease.
But the locals feel betrayed because the government waited until Monday to make a statement about the infection even though the reported incidents had reached hundreds in the last week. So it was only after the Hong Kong media coverage that it was acknowledged as a countrywide problem, and therefore, the central government is being criticized for their delayed responses.
“So far this pattern of a lack of transparency and inaction has unfortunately not changed,” said Professor Huang, an expert on the SARS virus. The hashtag #WuhanSARS and articles are also being used by some to bring global attention to the issue.
Source: International Business Times
The only statement that the committee from the government of Mr Xi Jinping has issued is, “Whoever deliberately delays or conceals reporting for the sake of their own interests will be forever nailed to history's pillar of shame”. It was released on a popular social media site but was deleted sometime later.
It seems that the local government is more concerned with calming the residents to protect the popularity of their government instead of employing methods to control the spread of the epidemic. And with the upcoming Lunar New Year festival, it is only a matter of time that others would be affected by the infection as well if the officials do not take it seriously.