As the WHO team on Thursday began their on-the-spot probe into the origins of the coronavirus in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, a local resident, who believed that the authorities had covered up the outbreak, said he wanted to meet the experts to share his experience with the disease.
The COVID-19 first emerged in Wuhan in 2019. The 14-member World Health Organisation team of international scientists, who had been confined to their hotel due to the quarantine rules, kicked off the field part of their month-long mission to explore how the coronavirus transmitted presumably from bats or pangolins to humans.
One resident named Zhang Hai said he believes delayed reporting about the virus by Wuhan city officials in the initial days of the outbreak has cost the life of his father, the BBC reported. "I think it's necessary that the experts meet me and other people who have lost family members to the virus, and hear from our experiences. I hope the WHO will not be used as a tool to spread lies," the report quoted the 51-year-old as saying.
Zhang's family had travelled to Wuhan in January last year from Shenzhen city so that his father could receive subsidised surgery for a leg fracture. The surgery was successful, but he contracted COVID-19 and subsequently died. "If it was made known that there was a virus outbreak in the city, we wouldn't have gone there," the BBC quoted him as saying.
"that fact at the time, many lives were lost, so the Wuhan government has knowingly committed murder. They need to be held accountable for that. Until I get an official apology from the local authorities over what happened to my father, I will not give up," Zhang said. Local government officials in Wuhan and its surrounding Hubei province have been accused of downplaying the virus in the early days of the pandemic and several were fired last year.
Zhang claimed Chinese authorities have blocked his online calls for accountability as well as efforts to organise other families of COVID-19 victims. He said a WeChat group formed by COVID-19 victims' families that had at least 80 members was deleted recently without explanation. Six separate accounts which Zhang had set up on microblogging platform Weibo to share his story have also been blocked.
"Every time I write something, it'll just get blocked," he said. Zhang said police have paid visits to his home in Shenzhen as well, and in November last year he was summoned to a police station for questioning.
But he remains unafraid about potential repercussions. "I know I have done nothing wrong," he said.