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Mainland internet users slam lack of Wuhan data

2020-01-17 HKT 13:11
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  • A seafood market linked to the outbreak is now closed and under guard, but some mainland internet users wonder why the virus is only in Wuhan. Photo: AFP
    A seafood market linked to the outbreak is now closed and under guard, but some mainland internet users wonder why the virus is only in Wuhan. Photo: AFP
Mainland internet users have expressed concern about the lack of official data about an outbreak of a newly-identified coronavirus, with some making comparisons to the handling of the Sars epidemic in 2003.

The mainland reported a second death linked to the virus on Thursday as the country prepares for its busiest travel season of the year, when millions of people take buses, trains and planes for Lunar New Year.

After the news of the second death emerged, online discussion was centred around the severity of the Wuhan coronavirus and how much information the government is hiding from the public.

Several complained about censorship of online posts, while others made comparisons to 2003 when when Beijing drew criticism from the World Health Organisation (WHO) for under-reporting the number of Sars cases.

"Scarier ... treating something too lightly," wrote a Weibo user.

"It's so strange," wrote another, citing the overseas cases in Japan and Thailand. "They all have Wuhan pneumonia cases but we don't apart from Wuhan – is that scientific?"

At least 41 people have been hit with pneumonia linked to the new virus in Wuhan. The health officials there said 12 people have recovered and been discharged from hospital, while five others were in a serious condition.

Experts have said that the virus can be transferred through human-to-human contact, but unlike Sars there are no reports of frontline health workers contracting the disease.

Hong Kong, which was severely affected by Sars in 2003, has stepped up detection measures at border points, including temperature checkpoints for inbound travellers.

A WHO doctor has said that it would not be surprising if there was "some limited human-to-human transmission, especially among families who have close contact with one another".

The WHO said on Thursday that "much remains to be understood about the new coronavirus". Not enough was known about it to "draw definitive conclusions about how it is transmitted", a statement added.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention meanwhile has issued a Level 1 "watch" alert for travellers to Wuhan, saying they should practise normal precautions and avoid contact with animals and sick people. (AFP)