The first days and weeks of the coronavirus pandemic were crucial. So why did China wait to alert the world? The FT’s investigation, the first of a six-part series, examines what went wrong in Wuhan 👇 on.ft.com/3lZzPI9
China’s response — and whether it dragged its feet — is now at the centre of a geopolitical blame game over the virus, which has infected 38m people, killed more than 1m and devastated economies on.ft.com/3lZzPI9 Image
By late December, Geo Fei had read rumours online about the ‘unknown pneumonia’. He confronted officials in his village 120km from Wuhan about why they were ‘totally unprepared’. They were waiting for instructions from higher up. ‘It was shocking’ on.ft.com/3lZzPI9 Image
Three weeks before Beijing publicly acknowledged the outbreak, doctors inside Wuhan Central Hospital already knew they had a problem: a viral pneumonia-like disease was spreading. But they were discouraged from reporting it on.ft.com/3lZzPI9 Image
Within days, hospital staff were falling sick, a tell-tale sign of human transmission. The death of one doctor, 33-year-old Li Wenliang, hailed as a whistleblower for alerting his colleagues to the outbreak, provoked a firestorm of public anger on.ft.com/3lZzPI9 Image
China’s opaque system of governance may have been partly to blame for its sluggish response. A public health adviser to the State Council described the role of local governments as ‘to keep the Communist party in power, not to promote transparency’ on.ft.com/3lZzPI9 Image
So why didn’t Wuhan-like outbreaks erupt all over China?
The answer: strict lockdowns. With nearly the entire population forced into lockdown in January and February, ‘diagnoses weren’t made . . . the virus just burnt itself out’ on.ft.com/3lZzPI9 Image
But Wuhan residents want answers for the government’s handling of the outbreak.

One is Zhong Hanneng, who lost his son Peng Yi, a 39-year-old primary school teacher, to Covid-19. The family held a large dinner on January 20. Weeks later, Peng Yi was dead on.ft.com/3lZzPI9 Image
China’s reluctance to leap into action was understandable, said Dale Fisher, an infectious diseases specialist who worked in west African Ebola hotspots. It was a dynamic that would play out across the world over the following months on.ft.com/3lZzPI9 Image
Chinese officials have traced the first confirmed Covid-19 case to December 1. But ‘patient zero’ may never be found — most who contract the virus have mild symptoms and may not know they were infected.

Read the first part of our six-month investigation: on.ft.com/3lZzPI9 Image

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More from @FinancialTimes

16 Oct
In case you missed them, here are 5 @financialtimes stories our readers loved this week, starting with a piece on the US election: Is Joe Biden on course for a blowout victory? on.ft.com/3nYBPCf
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Donald Trump’s teenage son Barron tested positive, the first lady confirmed, a record 22 US states recorded more than 1,000 new cases and Wales said it would bar people from UK hotspots. Follow our live coronavirus coverage: on.ft.com/340yIBG
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The total value of China’s stock market hit a record of $10.08tn, above the previous peak hit during an equities bubble in 2015 on.ft.com/2FsnNHN Image
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Republicans and Democrats in the US have been battling over the precise rules of how mail-in ballots will be handled in this year's election. Here are some of the key issues and cases that could affect the outcome of the poll 👇 ft.com/content/95413d… Image
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