The so-called “Wuhan virus” is so new that it is only known by the name of the region in China where the outbreak is believed to have started, and by its 2019-nCoV designation. Therefore, there are still no countermeasures designed specifically for this pandemic threat that now plagues China and is feared by the rest of the world. Not only is there no specific treatment against this coronavirus at the moment, but the Chinese government has been unsure how to react to the flood of information that has come out of the affected regions.
Something unheard of in a country where the Internet is so controlled, and where the mere mention of a Disney character can get you into trouble. The speed with which the Wuhan virus has spread has caught the services dedicated to the monitoring and control of the Chinese network off guard.
The Wuhan virus has already caused the death of at least 17 people, out of the 440 infected so far. In fact, the first cases occurred, at the latest, in the first days of 2020; but it was not until a week later, with the publication of a report in The Wall Street Journal, that the world, and the Chinese citizens themselves, realized the seriousness of the situation. By then, it was too late to control the conversation, but that doesn’t mean the government isn’t trying.
According to The New York Times, China has set in motion its Internet censorship machinery, and the results are already being felt, with messages disappearing on social networks. In particular, Chinese services are monitoring the #WuhanSARS hashtag and similar hashtags created by users to discuss and share news.
These messages have now been removed, but that’s just the beginning. Wuhan police are also investigating eight people on charges of “distributing rumors online”; the government believes they are helping to distribute so-called “fake news.
No arrests have been made so far, but this is a reaction that has surprised Chinese Internet users. Especially since, along with the deletion of messages, official government accounts have started to publish their own stories on the subject, as well as official statements in response to the rumours.
However, according to The New York Times, Wuhan residents have realized that the government has only begun to share information when it has had no choice but to do so, and when it has been criticized. Wuhan has already been isolated from the rest of the country, both by land and by sea and air.