Chen Qiushi, a renowned citizen and human rights journalist, arrived on January 24, 2020 in the city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, to report from the city in quarantine.
While the first case of coronavirus appeared on December 8, Chinese media spread the news only as of December 31, and the actual magnitude of the outbreak was announced on January 20, when leading pulmonologist Zhong Nanshan acknowledged that the boat had reached the stage of transmission among humans. After Beijing took the decision on January 23 to quarantine the city of Wuhan, concern spread in the circle of independent journalists due to the lack of reporters in the area who reported on the situation.
Chen became known in the wake of his coverage of the Hong Kong protests in August. Although he has suffered harassment and censorship by the Chinese Government after his trip to Hong Kong, he continues to post from his Twitter and YouTube accounts.
Below is a summary of Chen's coverage from the center of the epidemic outbreak that runs from January 24 to February 2.
January 24: Information should spread faster than the virus
After arriving in Wuhan around 10 pm, Chen asked citizens to contact him through WeChat and promised them that he would report on the real situation in the city. He foresaw that the national police would go after him and made three public promises:
- It would not spread rumors, it would not create social panic and it would not hide the truth.
- He was going to protect himself and was not going to contact patients in a delicate state.
- Until the outbreak was under control, he would not leave Wuhan, not even in the case of becoming infected.
He also added that the spread of the SARS virus 17 years ago and the Wuhan coronavirus were due to the concealment of the outbreak and Chinese citizens should not repeat the same error: the information should spread faster than the virus.
January 25: A visit to Wuhan Central Hospital
After the publication of his video on January 24, Chen's WeChat account was suspended for a month. According to WeChat notificationHe was accused of spreading rumors and illegal content.
At 2 am, Chen visited Wuhan Central Hospital, where he found an emergency room in which there were about 30 people. Before noon, Chen was forced to leave the hostel because local authorities gave orders to hotel operators not to host people who were not from the city.
Chen also visited several friends in Wuhan. One appeared with a homemade mask:
今天 见了 几个 武汉 当地 的 市民 朋友 ， 他们 带 我 去 了 金银 潭 医院 ， 只是 在 外面 跟 医生 聊 了 武汉 ， 的 的 乐观 和 坚定 真 是 勇敢 他们 他们 勇敢 、自信 、 热爱 生活 、 苦中作乐 ~ pic.twitter.com/dsuQ8YkwaE
– 陈 秋实 （陳 秋實） (@ chenqiushi404) January 25, 2020
Today I visited some friends in Wuhan. They took me to Jinyintan Hospital. I could only talk to the doctor and I could not enter the hospital. I was impressed with the courage and optimism of the citizens.
January 26: A corpse at Wuhan Hospital No. 11
Chen interviewed a nurse at Wuhan Hospital No. 11, who said the situation was much better than before the lunar New Year, when the rooms were crowded with thousands of patients. At that time, the Government did not provide any assistance and health workers did not have basic protective equipment. Instead of resorting to official channels, the hospital had to resort to public requests through social networks. The nurse also denounced some attempts on the part of the Government to verify what they denounced in the networks: “They said that the video in which three bodies were shown in the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital was false. I tell him they were real corpses, although we couldn't verify if they were victims of the coronavirus. ”
Chen expressed concern about human transmission within the hospital, since all patients shared the same room. He also stated that hygiene outside the hospital was not optimal: you could see remains of used masks and gloves, as well as vomiting.
January 27: Social panic and a divided society
Chen expressed frustration at the lack of citizen initiative to help each other during the crisis: “Everyone is divided. They complain incessantly and discuss government policies but do not even offer to help receive and distribute resources that arrive from outside to the city. ”
In addition, he spoke about the threats received by current affairs author Wang Yajun from the Hubei authorities due to his comments on the outbreak.
January 28: ‘Wuhan is hell’
During the morning, Chen helped send medical supplies and food to Wuhan Union Hospital. He then visited the place where Huoshenshan Hospital was built, one of the two hospitals that Beijing promised to finish in 10 days.
During the night, the journalist interviewed Wuhan citizens who criticized local authorities for not alerting the inhabitants about the outbreak and the lack of public support to the city in quarantine during the first day of the lunar New Year. The young man compared Wuhan to hell: people cannot go to medical centers by public transport and nobody responded on the emergency line. Even those patients who managed to reach the hospitals were only prescribed anti-inflammatories. Most were not tested to find out if they had contracted the virus and were told to quarantine at home.
Chen's video went viral on Twitter and YouTube after two days.
January 29: An infected nurse goes bankrupt
During his visit to Wuhan Hospital No. 5, Chen met about a hundred people. A nurse broke down and went into the hospital recording that she was infected but there was no bed available. Rumors spread online that the establishment had a certain number of infected health workers, but they were prohibited from making statements to the media.
January 30: Unconfirmed cases identified
Chen denounced that his name and face were blocked on WeChat and that any diffusion of his video could result in the disabling of his account. He also said that taxi drivers were aware of the outbreak since mid-December. According to one of its sources, of the 20,000 taxis in the city, only 6,000 were working during the quarantine. People had to contact the municipalities to get a taxi.
In addition, Chen said he had gone with a patient to Tongji Hospital, where patients were treated but did not have enough beds. According to the journalist, his friend asked for an exam to confirm if he was infected but the hospital did not have enough supplies.
January 31: Four confirmed cases of the same family group
Chen tried to visit to a family with four confirmed cases of coronavirus. Two of the people were hospitalized and the 84-year-old mother died in the morning. The son had received confirmation on January 23, but there were no beds available in the hospital. The journalist could not visit the family because the residential district He was put in confinement, with guards stationed at the main entrance.
February 1 and 2: The arrest of citizen journalist Fang Bin
Chen posted several videos from other citizen sources on Twitter and YouTube.
In the first It looked a large crowd at a pharmacy trying to acquire a Chinese medicine called “shuanghuanglian“. On January 31, the Chinese Academy of Sciences published a report in The People Daily News in which it was claimed that the drug could suppress virus replication. While several experts admitted that there is no clinical evidence on the effectiveness of this medication, many people in panic ran out of the product.
In the second, Chen He showed how national security officers disguised as disease control officials visited Wuhan Fang Bin citizen journalist overnight with the excuse of suspected infection. On January 31, Fang Bin posted a video of Wuhan No.5 Hospital, which showed how hospital bodies were transported to funeral homes. It is believed that this was the real reason for his arrest.
The next day, Fang was released and talked about the incident on Chen's YouTube channel. The police accused him of creating social panic.
Both journalists wanted to deepen the stories about the total number of coronavirus victims in Wuhan. On January 29, Chen visited Hanhou Funeral Home, a crematorium designated for the victims of the disease, and discovered that four vehicles entered the site within an hour and a half. On January 31, Fang Bin found a vehicle parked at the entrance of Hospital No.5 with eight bodies inside.
During Fang's arrest, agents said they needed to quarantine Fang because he had contracted the virus. On February 2, a new regulation was established that enabled disease control officials to take anyone in contact with an infected person. Chen said this regulation could be used as an excuse to arrest citizen journalists, he included. He urged others to be heard.
We invite you to see the Global Voices special coverage on the Wuhan coronavirus impact.