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The outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus traced to the Chinese city of Wuhan has infected over 12.9 million people and killed 571 thousand people across the world. But the Chinese government has a well-documented history of systemic cover-ups of scandals according to the South China Morning Post.
In 2004, an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in China was announced by the World Health Organization.
Both COVID-19 and SARS are caused by coronaviruses.
In 2004, there were eight confirmed or suspected cases of SARS and hundreds of people were quarantined.
The incident involved researchers who were working with the virus in a Beijing research lab.
Bob Dietz, WHO spokesman in Beijing told The Scientist Magazine in 2004: “We suspect two people, a 26-year-old female postgraduate student and a 31-year-old male postdoc, were both infected, apparently in two separate incidents.”
Both of the people infected worked at the Chinese Institute of Virology in Beijing which is part of China’s Center for Disease Control.
WHO Western Pacific Regional Director Shigeru Omi criticised the Chinese laboratory’s safeguards.
He said laboratory safety “is a serious issue that has to be addressed.
“We have to remain very vigilant.”
Mr Dietz added how China had level three research guidelines and rules in place for handling the SARS virus which were “of acceptable quality” to the WHO.
But he said: “It’s a question of procedures and equipment.”
The laboratory was closed and 200 staff members had to be isolated in a hotel.
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In 2004, Antoine Danchin, an epidemiologist with the Hong Kong University-Pasteur Research Center told The Scientist the outbreak incidents were probably due to lab accidents.
He said: “Normally, it’s not possible to contaminate people even under level two confinement, if the security rules are obeyed, with the appropriate hoods, and so on.”
He explained how because SARS work requires level three it suggested there had been “some mishandling of something”.
Mr Danchin added: “The lab might have all the right rules, but the people may not comply!
“For example, notebooks are not supposed to be taken out, a lot of things like that.
“A virus doesn’t jump on people.”
On Friday, a Chinese virologist said the Chinese government had covered up the novel coronavirus outbreak which began in Wuhan.
Dr. Li-Meng Yan, who specialised in virology and immunology at the Hong Kong School of Public Health, said Beijing knew about the novel coronavirus well before it claims.
She said: “The China government refused to let overseas experts, including ones in Hong Kong, do research in China.
“So I turned to my friends to get more information.”
One of the friends she contacted was a scientist at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in China who said she had first-hand knowledge of the cases coming out of Wuhan before China announced any information.
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