posted on Sep, 26 2020 @ 02:12 PM
“The novel coronavirus in China is spreading surprisingly quickly. According to official information, more than 200 people are already suffering
from a lung disease that is triggered by the pathogen. Three neighboring countries have now also reported infections. The World Health Organization
convened a panel of experts to recommend, among other things, possible measures. According to Chinese researchers, the virus is also transmitted from
person to person. "
The statement that the virus spreads “surprisingly quickly” was only weakly substantiated at the time, given that there were only 200 infected
people within three weeks. The essential new information was the now declared transferability from person to person. What was also new was that the
Chinese government had now radically changed its initial course of sweeping the subject under the carpet and now declared the crisis itself with all
its might and public vigor as a state affair. Starting January 20, the Chinese health authorities submitted a daily report with the latest corona case
numbers. The Tagesschau also referred to these first numbers in its television report. The short moderation by Jens Riewas was followed by a report by
the Beijing ARD correspondent, which said:
“Now before the New Year celebrations, it is the main travel time in China. Everyone is checked at the Wuhan train station. Fever monitors and
medical personnel are in use. (...) So far, three people have died. Most of the patients are not seriously ill, have a fever and have difficulty
breathing. (…) On state television today, a researcher reported on infected people who were not in Wuhan themselves, but relatives of them: 'We can
therefore confirm that there are cases in which the virus was transmitted from person to person. With this message it is clear: The virus will spread
further in China and control the disease wave will be more difficult. "
This set the tone for the coming weeks - and not just in the news. The media interest that was suddenly rising at this point can also be traced back
to the reports in the New York Times. While only a few articles about the virus had appeared up until then, for example on 10.1. ("China reports first
deaths from new virus"), January 15. ("Japan and Thailand confirm new cases of the Chinese coronavirus"), 17.1. ("Three US airports check passengers
for a deadly Chinese coronavirus"), 18.1. ("Deadly mystery virus reported in two new Chinese cities and South Korea"), and 1/20. ("China confirms that
the new coronavirus is transmitted from person to person"), the amount of articles exploded with the start of the WEF meeting in Davos.
On January 21 alone, the opening day of the conference, the New York Times published five different articles on the coronavirus and, for the first
time, an easy-to-read "Wuhan Coronavirus map" to track the outbreak. Also on January 21, the WHO published its first "Coronavirus Situation Report",
which has been published daily since then. The starting shot for the media and political "corona fire" was given.
The Covid-19 dashboard is ready to use immediately
The very next day something else happened that was very momentous for the media communication of the topic: The Johns Hopkins University launched its
Covid-19 dashboard, the now famous online world map in which the geographical distribution of all corona cases and their development trend, the case
and death numbers were constantly updated. At the start on Wednesday, January 22nd, a press report said:
"According to official Chinese reports, 444 people had been hospitalized by Wednesday afternoon, at least 17 of whom died of the novel coronavirus.
But the map, unveiled Wednesday by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, suggests that these numbers may be growing faster than national sources
show. "We think it's important for the public to understand the situation as it progresses with transparent data sources," said Lauren Gardner,
professor at Johns Hopkins University who led the team that created the map. (...) According to Gardner, the map is a 'very simple' collection of
reported cases, compiled from sources at the local level and requiring no modeling. To create the map, Gardner and her team viewed and compiled local
Chinese media reports. These reports were then translated into English and their locations mapped. As new reports come in, the map is updated, says
The dashboard developed a life of its own because it was easy to understand. Hundreds of media around the world adopted the data and the type of
graphical representation. This was an excellent illustration of the elusive danger of an epidemic. The dashboard also served the media's need for
constant news and updates - and thus fueled public nervousness. From then on, many editors and media consumers, but also politicians, looked
spellbound at the rising curves that were built into almost every article on the topic and that gave the impression that one had already understood
the essentials with one look. "Source: Johns Hopkins" became a household word in the media, where American numbers were mostly blindly trusted.
Through the dashboard, a private US institution gained international authority over the number of cases.
The next big bang also followed on January 22nd: The Chinese authorities announced that they would place the ten million metropolis of Wuhan and
several other large cities completely under quarantine the following day. Nobody would then be allowed to enter or leave these cities - an
unprecedented action on this scale. The decision seemed to confirm the magnitude of the danger. As an observer, it would have been assumed that the
situation would be exceptionally threatening if the government took such an extreme step.
On the same day, an attempt was made within the WHO committees to induce the authority to declare a “Public Health Emergency of International
Concern”, which initially could not be enforced internally, but was made up for on January 30th. (1)
Global reporting now focused entirely on the Corona issue. On January 23rd alone, 13 (!) Articles on the subject appeared in the New York Times. The
headlines read among others: “Fears about the new coronavirus seize Davos” and “How China's virus outbreak could threaten the global economy”.
As mentioned, almost 3,000 politicians, managers and journalists, including many of the most powerful heads of state and corporate leaders, met in
Davos at the same time, from January 21 to 24. This circumstance is reminiscent of the already described pandemic scenario of the exercise “Atlantic
Storm” from 2005, where the news of an epidemic outbreak also surprised the heads of state at an international conference where all decision-makers
were conveniently already gathered together (see Chapter 4). Here is the corresponding excerpt from the script at the time:
“On January 13, the eve of the summit, cases of smallpox were reported in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Turkey. The heads of state and
government decide to meet for a few hours on January 14th before heading home to deal with the emerging crisis. During the six-hour meeting, the
transatlantic heads of state and government grappled with the scale and rapid pace of the spreading smallpox epidemic, the tensions between domestic
and foreign policy, the challenge of controlling the movement of people across borders and the global lack of critical ones medical resources like a
smallpox vaccine. "(3) TBC