China's top respiratory authorities have cautioned against a possibility of the second wave of COVID-19 infections bringing a bigger challenge than the first. Experts are concerned that the community's lack of immunity still poses a big threat as there has been no vaccine developed for the disease yet.
Dr. Zhong Nanshan, the face of China's battle with the coronavirus diseases, and also the senior medical adviser of the Chinese government told CNN in an exclusive interview that details about the intensity of the early stages of the outbreak were suppressed by local authorities from the Wuhan, where the virus first emerged.
Decreasing cases do not mean the COVID-19 outbreak is over
According to data from China's National Health Commission (NHC), the country has reported more than 4,633 deaths and more than 82,000 cases of COVID-19 since it first emerged. In late January, city-wide lockdowns were imposed as well as travel bans throughout the nation due to the sudden surge in the number of new infections.
The following month, daily new cases of COVID-19 in the country were reaching 3,887 per day. However, the number of cases suddenly dropped by double-digit after a month in China, as other countries suffer a sudden spike in numbers.
As of the moment, life in China is now easing back to normal as the threat of the virus has been largely contained. Some schools and factories have already resumed operations as some of the restrictions have been lifted.
However, according to Zhong, this is no reason to be complacent. He emphasized that despite the drop in the number of daily infections, the danger of a possible second wave is still imminent. He explained how new cases have emerged across the country in the past weeks in some places across the country including Wuhan and the provinces in the northeastern region of the country, Heilongjiang, and Jilin.
Zhong further added that the majority of the population is susceptible to infection at the moment.
Covering up the early stages of the outbreak
Back in 2003, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrom (SARS), which is also caused by another strain of coronavirus, Zhong was hailed as China's "SARS hero" as he led the battle against the outbreak. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he also headed the country's response especially during the critical stages of the outbreak.
On January 18, Zhong spearheaded a team of experts who were sent by the NHC journeyed to Wuhan in order to investigate the outbreak. According to Zhong, when he arrived in the city, he received calls from some of his former students and doctors who cautioned him that the situation is much more severe that the reports make it out to be.
Zhong stated that local authorities and officials avoided telling the true magnitude of the situation during that time. He noted that they kept being silent about the reality of the outbreak at the beginning which prompted him to think that there is probably a huge number of infected people.
As of the moment the number of new cases in China as gone down to 5 cases a day, but experts say that the world still need to watch out for a second wave of the outbreak. Zhong also noted that in order to mitigate the continued spread of the disease, officials should not hide anything else about the pandemic.