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World Wuhan doctor who was among the first to alert other medics to the spread of coronavirus 'goes missing' amid fears she has been detained for speaking out

18:43  01 april  2020
18:43  01 april  2020 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

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Wuhan doctor who was among the first to alert other medics to the spread of coronavirus ' goes missing ' amid fears she has been detained for speaking out . While China has been widely-praised for a draconian lockdown that helped slow the spread of the virus, evidence suggests that

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A Wuhan doctor who was among the first to alert other medics to the spread of coronavirus has disappeared sparking concerns that she has been detained, reports suggest. 

Dr Ai Fen said she faced 'unprecedented, extremely harsh reprimanded' by officials at Wuhan Central Hospital after she shared a picture of a patient report labelled 'SARS coronavirus'. 

a person standing in a room: Dr Ai Fen - who went public over the spread coronavirus in Wuhan - has disappeared sparking concerns that she has been detained, reports suggest © Provided by Daily Mail Dr Ai Fen - who went public over the spread coronavirus in Wuhan - has disappeared sparking concerns that she has been detained, reports suggest The image was widely circulated and made its way to whistle-blower Li Wenliang who raised the alarm about the bug, which has killed more than 41,000 people worldwide. 

a person standing in a room: Dr Ai said she faced 'unprecedented, extremely harsh reprimanded' by officials at Wuhan Central Hospital © Provided by Daily Mail Dr Ai said she faced 'unprecedented, extremely harsh reprimanded' by officials at Wuhan Central Hospital Dr Li was reprimanded by authorities for 'illegally spreading untruthful information online'.

Dr Ai gave an interview to a Chinese magazine criticising the hospital's management for dismissing the early warnings of the coronavirus but has not been seen since, 60 Minutes Australia reported.

a man riding a motorcycle in front of a building: A woman wears a face mask while riding a scooter along the street in Wuhan after the government relaxed lockdown rules © Provided by Daily Mail A woman wears a face mask while riding a scooter along the street in Wuhan after the government relaxed lockdown rules

After the show's investigation aired, a post on the doctor's Weibo account - a social media platform similar to Twitter - shared a picture with the caption: 'A river. A bridge. A road. A clock chime,' RFA reports.

a group of people standing in a parking lot: Officials wearing hazmat suits control an entrance to Biandanshan Cemetery in Wuhan © Provided by Daily Mail Officials wearing hazmat suits control an entrance to Biandanshan Cemetery in Wuhan Her rumoured disappearance comes after criticism was levvied at the Chinese government for lying and covering up key information during virtually every stage of its coronavirus response.  

Beijing initially tried to cover up the outbreak by punishing medics who discovered it, denying it could spread person-to-person and delaying a lockdown of affected regions - meaning early opportunities to control the spread were lost.

Then, once the virus began spreading, the Communist Party began censoring public information about it and spread disinformation overseas - including suggesting that US troops could have been the initial carriers.

a person standing on a sidewalk: A man is seen in a protective mask overlooking the Yangtze River in Wuhan after the city was partially reopened © Provided by Daily Mail A man is seen in a protective mask overlooking the Yangtze River in Wuhan after the city was partially reopened

Even now, prominent politicians have warned that infection and death totals being reported by the regime are likely to be wrong - with locals in the epicenter of Wuhan suggesting the true tolls could be ten times higher.

a woman taking a selfie in a room: Dr Ai Fen said she faced 'unprecedented, extremely harsh reprimanded' by officials at Wuhan Central Hospital after she shared a picture of a patient report labelled 'SARS coronavirus' © Provided by Daily Mail Dr Ai Fen said she faced 'unprecedented, extremely harsh reprimanded' by officials at Wuhan Central Hospital after she shared a picture of a patient report labelled 'SARS coronavirus' In the interview prior to her alleged dissapearance, Dr Ai admitted 'feeling regretful about not speaking out more' after four of her colleagues, including Dr Li, had contracted the virus and died while fighting the outbreak.

'If I had known what would have happened today, I wouldn't have cared about the reprimand. I would have told whoever and wherever I want,' said Dr Ai. 

a person standing in a room: Dr Fen criticised the hospital bosses for dismissing the early warnings of the coronavirus in a feature article published online yesterday by Chinese magazine People © Provided by Daily Mail Dr Fen criticised the hospital bosses for dismissing the early warnings of the coronavirus in a feature article published online yesterday by Chinese magazine People

The interview was posted on Tuesday but quickly retracted from social media by its publisher People (Renwu) Magazine. 

On 30 December, Dr Ai received a patient's report labelled 'SARS coronavirus'. 

She said she broke out into a cold sweat after reading the lab results several times. 

a person posing for the camera: Ai Fen, whose text prompted whistle-blower Li Wenliang to sound the coronavirus alarm says her hospital punished her for sharing information on SARS-like disease last year © Provided by Daily Mail Ai Fen, whose text prompted whistle-blower Li Wenliang to sound the coronavirus alarm says her hospital punished her for sharing information on SARS-like disease last year

The SARS epidemic 17 years ago infected more than 8,000 people worldwide and killed over 800, according to the World Health Organisation. 

The medic circled the word 'SARS' and sent a picture of the report to one of her former classmates and a group chat within her department.

Dr Ai said she alerted hospital authorities about the case.

'Later that evening, the stuff was shared all over the place with screenshots of the report bearing my red circle,' she said.

She added: '[These platforms] included the chatting group, which Li Wenliang shared the information with. I thought something bad is going to happen.'

Two days later, the Wuhan medic was summoned by the head of the hospital's disciplinary inspection committee.

a man wearing a green shirt: Chinese doctor Li Wenliang, 34, confirmed on Saturday that he had caught the deadly disease while treating patients at a hospital in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak © Provided by Daily Mail Chinese doctor Li Wenliang, 34, confirmed on Saturday that he had caught the deadly disease while treating patients at a hospital in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak Dr Ai said she faced 'unprecedented, extremely harsh reprimanded' and was accused of 'spreading rumours as a professional' by the hospital's officials.

a person taking a selfie in a room: He had been reprimanded by police after warning on social media of 'SARS at a Wuhan seafood market' © Provided by Daily Mail He had been reprimanded by police after warning on social media of 'SARS at a Wuhan seafood market'

'I was in shock,' she continued. 

'What did I do wrong? Knowing the fact that a significant virus has been found on a patient, how can I not tell when another doctor asks about it?'

a man wearing a suit and tie: Dr Zhu Heping (pictured) was pronounced dead by a hospital in Wuhan, according to Chinese state newspaper People's Daily © Provided by Daily Mail Dr Zhu Heping (pictured) was pronounced dead by a hospital in Wuhan, according to Chinese state newspaper People's Daily Ophthalmologist Li Wenliang was among eight people who shared Dr Ai's picture before being reprimanded by police and accused of spreading 'fake news' for warning the public of 'SARS at a Wuhan seafood market' on social media.

a person posing for the camera: Dr Mei Zhongming (pictured), 57, was declared dead  after contracting the novel coronavirus through his work © Provided by Daily Mail Dr Mei Zhongming (pictured), 57, was declared dead  after contracting the novel coronavirus through his work The 34-year-old medic succumbed to the deadly contagion in the early hours of Friday morning local time despite attempts to resuscitate him. 

Three other doctors who worked along with late heroic whistle-blower Dr Li Wenliang have also died of the disease after contracting it while fighting the outbreak.

Dr Ai said she doesn't think of herself as a whistle-blower: 'I was the one handing out the whistles.'

'This incident has shown that everyone needs to have their own thoughts because someone has to step up to speak the truth,' she added. 'The world needs different kinds of voices.' 

a man sitting at a table: Dr Liu died of the disease at around 11am on February 18 after contracting it at work, health officials confirmed © Provided by Daily Mail Dr Liu died of the disease at around 11am on February 18 after contracting it at work, health officials confirmed The original article has been removed from the magazine's Wechat account but web users have been posting screenshots of it online. 

a large building: He was the head of Wuhan Wuchang Hospital (pictured) at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak © Provided by Daily Mail He was the head of Wuhan Wuchang Hospital (pictured) at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak

The great cover-up of China: Beijing punished covid whistleblower, claimed it came from US and 'is STILL lying about death figures' - so what CAN we believe from them?

China has lied and covered up key information during virtually every stage of its coronavirus response - from the initial outbreak to the number of cases and deaths, and is still not telling the truth, observers, experts and politicians have warned.

Beijing initially tried to cover up the virus by punishing medics who discovered it, denying it could spread person-to-person and delaying a lockdown of affected regions - meaning early opportunities to control the spread were lost.

Then, once the virus began spreading, the Communist Party began censoring public information about it and spread disinformation overseas - including suggesting that US troops could have been the initial carriers.

Even now, prominent politicians have warned that infection and death totals being reported by the regime are likely to be wrong - with locals in the epicenter of Wuhan suggesting the true tolls could be ten times higher.

Here, Mail Online analysis of Beijing's actions lays bare the great cover-up of China:

 

Initial outbreak

Doctors in China, including Li Wenliang, began reporting the existence of a new type of respiratory infection that was similar to SARS in early December last year.

But rather than publicise the reports and warn the public, Chinese police hauled Wenliang and eight of his colleagues who had been posting about the virus online in for questioning.

Wenliang, who would later die from the virus, was forced to sign a document admitting the information he published was false.

While China has been widely-praised for a draconian lockdown that helped slow the spread of the virus, evidence suggests that the country could have acted much quicker to prevent the spread.

a man wearing a mask: Li Wenliang © Provided by Daily Mail Li Wenliang

Samples analysed as early as December 26 suggested a new type of SARS was circulating, the Washington Post reported, but Wuhan was not locked down until January 22 - almost a month later.

Wuhan's mayor also admitted an error that allowed 5million people to travel out of the city before the lockdown came into place without being checked for the virus, potentially helping it to spread. 

Chinese authorities have also been reluctant to had over information on the country's 'patient zero' - or the first person known to have contracted the virus.

While Beijing claims the first infection took place on December 8, researchers have traced the virus back to at least December 1 and anecdotal evidence suggests it was spreading in November.

A lack of information about the first patient has meant scientists are still unclear how the disease made the leap from animals into humans.

Theories include that it could have been carried by a bat or pangolin that was sold at a market in Wuhan and then eaten by someone, but this has not been confirmed. 

Early reports

Chinese authorities initially reported that the virus could not spread person-to-person, despite evidence that it was spreading rapidly through the city of Wuhan including doctors being infected by patients.

This was used as justification for keeping the city of Wuhan operating as normal through a major CCP conference that was held between January 11 and 17, with authorities claiming zero new cases in this period.

China did not confirm human-to-human transmission of the virus until late January, when large parts of Hubei province including Wuhan were put into lockdown. 

a group of people sitting at a train station: Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market (pictured), where the coronavirus pandemic is believed to have started, was one of the largest marketplace in Wuhan with throngs of customers daily © Provided by Daily Mail Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market (pictured), where the coronavirus pandemic is believed to have started, was one of the largest marketplace in Wuhan with throngs of customers daily

Despite reporting the existence of a 'novel type of pneumonia' to the World Health Organisation on December 31, Wuhan's largest newspaper also made no mention of the virus until the week of January 20.

That meant people in the city were not taking precautions such as social distancing to stop it spreading.

It also meant that people had begun travelling for the Lunar New Year holiday, which was due to start on January 24 and sees millions of people visit relatives, spreading the virus further. 

Furthermore, China delayed reports suggesting that some 14 per cent of patients who initially tested negative for the virus or who appeared to have recovered tested positive a second time, only confirming such cases in February.

That further hampered efforts at early containment of the virus in places such as Japan, where patients who tested negative on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship were allowed to leave - only to test positive later. 

Authorities in Beijing were also slow to report the deaths of two doctors from the virus, including one who was killed on January 25 but whose death was not reported by state media until a month later. 

a sign in front of a building: The market was shut on January 1 after dozens of workers there had contracted the disease © Provided by Daily Mail The market was shut on January 1 after dozens of workers there had contracted the disease

Origin of the virus

Despite early admissions that the virus began in the city of Wuhan, China later back-tracked - even going so far as to suggest American troops had brought the infection over after visiting the province.

Lijian Zhao, a prominent official within the Chinese Foreign Ministry, tweeted out the claim on March 12 while providing no evidence to substantiate it.

'When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals,' he wrote.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the U.S. lacked transparency and accused American military members of bringing the coronavirus to Wuhan © Provided by Daily Mail Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the U.S. lacked transparency and accused American military members of bringing the coronavirus to Wuhan

Referencing a military athletics tournament in Wuhan in October, which US troops attended, he wrote: 'It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. 

'Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!'

In fact, America's 'patient zero' was a man who travelled from China to Washington State on January 15. The case was confirmed by the CDC six days later.

Chinese has also tried to push the theory that the virus originated in Italy, the country with the most deaths, by distorting a quote from an Italian doctor who suggested the country's first cases could have occurred much earlier than thought.

Zhao spread the theory in a tweet, while providing no evidence to back it up © Provided by Daily Mail Zhao spread the theory in a tweet, while providing no evidence to back it up

Giuseppe Remuzzi said he is investigating strange cases of pneumonia as far back as December and November, months before the virus was known to have spread.

Chinese state media widely reported his comments while also suggesting that the virus could have originated in Italy.

In fact, Remuzzi says, there can be no doubt it started in Wuhan - but may have spread out of the province and across the world earlier than thought. 

Infection total

China has reported a total of some 82,000 infections from coronavirus, claiming a domestic infection rate of zero for several days in a row recently - even as it eased lockdown restrictions in placed like Hubei.

But, by the country's own admission, the virus is likely still spreading - via people who have few or no symptoms.

Beijing-based outlet Caixin reported that 'a couple to over 10 cases of covert infections of the virus are being detected' in China every day, despite not showing up in official data.

Meanwhile foreign governments have heaped scorn on China's infection reporting cannot be trusted.

Marco Rubio, a prominent Republican senator and former presidential candidate from the US, tweeted that 'we have NO IDEA how many cases China really has' after the US infection total passed Beijing's official figure.

'Without any doubt it's significantly more than what they admit to,' he added.

Meanwhile the UK government has also cast doubt on China's reporting, with Conservative minister and former Prime Ministerial candidate Michael Gove claiming the Communist Party could not be trusted.

'Some of the reporting from China was not clear about the scale, the nature, the infectiousness of this [virus],' he told the BBC.

Meanwhile sources told the Mail that China's true infection total could be anything up to 40 times as high as reports had suggested. 

a group of people standing in a suit and tie: Marco Rubio, a prominent Republican senator, has said that China's figures cannot be trusted and a far higher than has been reported © Provided by Daily Mail Marco Rubio, a prominent Republican senator, has said that China's figures cannot be trusted and a far higher than has been reported

Death total 

Doubt has also been cast on China's reported death toll from the virus, which currently stands at around 3,300.

Locals in epicenter city Wuhan have been keeping an eye on funeral homes since lockdown restrictions were partly lifted, claiming they have been 'working around the clock' to dispose of bodies.

a group of people riding on the back of a car: China has reported 3,300 deaths from the virus, but social media users in Wuhan have suggested the toll could be in excess of 42,000 © Provided by Daily Mail China has reported 3,300 deaths from the virus, but social media users in Wuhan have suggested the toll could be in excess of 42,000

Social media posts estimate that 3,500 urns are being handed out by crematoriums each day, while Caixin reports that one funeral home in the city placed an order for 5,000 urns.

Locals believe that efforts to dispose of the bodies began March 23 and city authorities have said the process will end on or around April 5.

That would mean roughly 42,000 urns handed out in that time frame, ten times the reported figure. 

Chinese aid packages 

As it brought its own coronavirus epidemic under control and as the disease spread across the rest of the world, China attempted to paint itself as a helpful neighbour by sending aid and supplies to countries most in need - such as Italy.

In fact, while the Chinese Red Cross supplied some free equipment to the Italians, the country purchased a large amount of what it received.

Meanwhile officials in Spain said that a batch of coronavirus testing kits bought from China had just 30 per cent reliability - unlike the 80 per cent they were promised.

Xi Jinping et al. posing for the camera: China has said it is willing to help supply the world with much needed aid and supplies, but has been accused of hoarding protective equipment and selling test kits that don't work © Provided by Daily Mail China has said it is willing to help supply the world with much needed aid and supplies, but has been accused of hoarding protective equipment and selling test kits that don't work

China is also the world's largest manufacturer of disposable masks of the kind being worn to slow the spread of the virus by people while out in public.

But as the disease began gathering speed in the country in January, China began limiting exports of the masks while also buying up supplies from other countries, the New York Times reported.

As well as halting virtually all exports of masks, China also bought up some 56million masks and respirators from overseas while fears of a pandemic were still far off.

Despite reports from US mask manufacturers of factories in Shanghai being effectively nationalised, China denies it has any such policy in place and has said it is 'willing to strengthen international cooperation' on the issue. 

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© REUTERS / Aly Song Security agents patrol the Wuhan convention center transformed into a hospital during the health crisis on April 9, 2020 (illustration image ). Closed neighborhoods, improvised hospital, border closed to travelers: while according to the official version, the epidemic is regressing in China, a small Chinese town bordering on Russia has just been placed on alert in the face of the arrival of travelers infected with the new coronavirus.

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