Wuhan City has been closed for a month…

January 23, 2020 (1–23) will evoke sad memories of many people in the future, and it may even become an important day of mourning or history because this is the date that Wuhan is “CLOSED”! This is the first time in the history of mankind to “close a city” with a population of more than 10 million! [1] (It must be noted that Chinese-style closure of a city is very different from those that are generally understood as restricting cross-border entry and exit, refer to Guardian’s (2020) [6] report for details). The closure has then been extended to many other cities in Mainland China, with an aim to stop the spread of a new pneumonia virus which was firstly discovered in Wuhan on December 31 (formerly known as 2019n- CoV, now known as COVID-2019 by WHO), causing a pandemic.

This day is on the 29th day of the lunar calendar, commonly known as the “Day Before the Last Day of a Year”. It is the time to move forward from the Chinese Year of Pig to the Year of Rat. When most of the Chinese families are preparing to celebrate the Spring Festival, the closure order comes.

Moreover, January 23 was also the day when the first diagnosed case of COVID-2019 confirmed in both Hong Kong and Singapore. I believe Hong Kong people will not forget this day and will probably take January 23 as the day of COVID-2019. My first article on the Wuhan pneumonia was also published on this day [2].

However, after closing the cities by the Chinese-style closures for a month, the spread has not been stopped but has rapidly intensified and transmitted globally. On Feb 22, the number of people diagnosed in China has increased from 544 (Figure 1) on January 23 to 75,893 (Figure 2). 77,274 people were diagnosed worldwide and 2,250 died. In fact, on January 31, I had published an article titled “Wuhan pneumonia epidemic is growing exponentially, it is urgent to stop the epidemic” [3] (this article has been banned in China), which called for immediate effective quarantine measures to prevent a catastrophe. Unfortunately, the governments ignored it.

Figure 1 There was 544 confirmed cases of Wuhan Virus on Jan 22, 2020. Source: Business Insider https://www.businessinsider.com.au/china-virus-everything-we-know-deadly-2019-ncov-wuhan-spread-2020-1
Figure 2 Number of Confirmed Cases of COVID-2019 in Mainland China, on Jan 31 (Blue curve) and Feb 20 (Red curve). Source: Wiki https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019%E5%86%A0%E7%8B%80%E7%97%85%E6%AF%92%E7%97%85%E4%B8%AD%E5%9C%8B%E5%A4%A7%E9%99%B8%E7%97%85%E4%BE%8B

On Jan 31, I have forecasted the number of confirmed cases of COVID-2019 to be about 50,000 on Feb 20, according to the growth rate of cases in the first month (Figure 2 blue line), but the actual number of confirmed cases today has exceeded 75,000 (Figure 2 red line), 50% more than the forecast! [It has to note that due to the official changes of the definition of confirmed cases by the Chinese government, the recently released figures are very unreasonable.]

According to the available information, the first case of the outbreak occurred in Wuhan as early as December 1, but measures were only taken on January 23, i.e. after 54 days. The epidemic information was concealed during the onset of the Spring Festival, people are traveling to and from the cities and banquets were held by the government, all these factors have contributed to the large-scale epidemic outbreak, and overloaded the medical system. It can be imagined how difficult it is to prevent and control the epidemic when even medical supplies are seriously inadequate.

Referring to an article published in Lancet about the first 41 confirmed patients from December 1 to December 31 [3], of which the first three patients had no contact with the South China Seafood Market (Figure 3), I had published another article immediately on January 27 to urge for tracing the earliest patients [4] to find out the source of the virus and prevent the spread of the disease. Unfortunately, it received no response.

Figure 3 The dates of the first 41 confirmed patients in Wuhan of COVID-2019 and their exposure to the Huanan seafood market. Soruce: Huang, C. et al. (2020)

We have paid for an expensive lesson that the freedom of press and speech is of utmost importance in stopping a pandemic. If whistleblowing is not punished, Dr. Li Wenliang may not need to sacrifice! The 2,000+ deaths may not be infected with Wuhan pneumonia, Hong Kong and the world may be saved from the disaster!

I indeed have also warned the outbreak on Jan 3 on my facebook page (Figure 4). Based on my research on bubonic plague and SARS [5], I know that the virus can be spread very rapidly during the Spring Festival. I urged the government to implement measures such as quarantine and stop the cross-border people flow in my first published article [2]. Unfortunately, government officials misjudged the situation and thought that the epidemic has been under control, and the result is now well known.

Figure 4 Warning that the Wuhan Virus will arrive in Hong Kong at the time of the Spring Festival. Source: Facebook page of the author


[1] 財新網 (2020) 肺炎日记 | 1月23日:武汉全面“封城”,全力遏制疫情,1月23日。http://www.caixin.com/2020-01-23/101507939.html

[2] 姚松炎(2020) 從武漢肺炎看國際新聞自由的重要,方格子,1月23日。https://vocus.cc/eyanalysispoliecon/5e28c033fd897800011e876b

[3] Huang, C. et al. (2020) Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China, Lancet January 24, DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30183-5

[4] 姚松炎(2020) 武漢肺炎的死亡率急升至15%?要追溯到最早的發病者,方格子,1月27日。https://vocus.cc/eyanalysispoliecon/5e2e5f7afd8978000122c3dd

[5] 姚松炎(2020) 從1894年廣州鼠疫到2003年香港沙士及2019年武漢肺炎看政府公信力的重要,方格子,1月25日。參考:姚松炎 (2007) 香港鼠疫、衛生環境與建築,歷史照片研究比賽公開組冠軍,香港歷史博物館。

[6] Guardian (2020) ‘It’s post-apocalyptic’: how coronavirus has altered day-to-day life, Feb 21. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/21/post-apocalyptic-how-coronavirus-has-altered-day-to-day-life-wuhan-north-england?CMP=fb_gu&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR2drMJwXd8uXRsFmVlTbq6aNabgHF32HBcSeq1gVjFHr0YpIl-RNviRwUQ#Echobox=1582297212



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