Chinese policy slowed release of virus data, researchers say

Chinese policy slowed release of virus data, researchers say
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China was slow to report genetic information on a deadly new form of coronavirus that has infected thousands in recent weeks, according to international health officials.

Bloomberg reported Monday that researchers blamed insufficient reporting procedures in the country for the slow speed of news about the disease.

Data on the virus's genetic profile did not make it to World Health Organization (WHO) researchers and other health experts until about two weeks after the virus began making people sick, the researchers, including two WHO emergency committee members, reportedly wrote in The Lancet, a medical journal.

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"The genome sequence — crucial for rapid development of diagnostics needed in an outbreak response — was not released until Jan. 12, 17 days after the preliminary sequence data were obtained,” they added, according to Bloomberg.

“To be fair to the authorities, I think all national responses would do what the Chinese did,” one of the paper's authors told the news outlet. “This is not a cover up or delay, this is all about policy and ‘rules of engagement’ for reporting. I hope people focus on the lessons learned.”

More than 45,000 people are thought to have contracted the disease so far, and more than 1,110 have died. The vast majority of cases have been in China.

A handful of cases of the virus, which presents with a form of pneumonia, have been reported in the U.S. and countries in close proximity to China. The virus is thought to have originated at a Wuhan seafood and animal market, which has since been shuttered by Chinese authorities.