"At the very beginning they kept silent", Zhong said, speaking of his trip to the city in mid-January.
According to CNN, Zhong understood that Wuhan officials were downplaying the severity of the outbreak and soon headed to Beijing where he briefed the central government and pressed for the world’s first coronavirus shutdown.
"I suppose they were very reluctant to answer my questions. The local authorities didn’t like to tell the truth at that time", Zhong said.
Beijing has dismissed a slew of local officials for their initial actions and Wuhan mayor Zhou Xianwang admitted to mistakes.
China’s actions at the early stages of the outbreak have become the subject of much debate, with US President Donald Trump laying the blame squarely at Beijing’s feet and threatening to cut off the relationship.
China has so far consistently denied the accusations, stressing that its policies were transparent throughout the outbreak.
When pressed on what he believed the origin of the virus was, Zhong maintained that it was difficult to tell accurately but that it was most likely an animal source.
Zhong became known during the original SARS epidemic in 2002-03 and has since been Beijing's point man for infectious diseases and outbreak mitigation measures.