22:40 GMT19 October 2020
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    Countries Ease Lockdown Measures While COVID-19 Cases Surpass 4 Mln Worldwide (197)
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - China’s preeminent coronavirus medical expert, pulmonologist Zhong Nanshan said Wuhan officials kept silent and minimized the extent of the coronavirus infections at the beginning of the outbreak in an interview with CNN.

    "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.

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) earlier in May reiterated that COVID-19's published genomic sequence proves the virus's origin is natural and not a laboratory construct. Prior to that, WHO officials were criticised for trusting China's statistics and taking too long to declare a pandemic, which has infected more than 4.5 million since emerging in Wuhan in December.

    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.

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    Countries Ease Lockdown Measures While COVID-19 Cases Surpass 4 Mln Worldwide (197)
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    officials, Wuhan, coronavirus, COVID-19, China
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