(Minghui.org) There are many more unknowns about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic than the flu. Miscomparing the two diseases has become a political tool for the Chinese government, as demonstrated in a daily press briefing given by China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on February 3.

She said, “According to a recent CDC report, from 2019 to 2020 in the U.S., 19 million people were infected with the flu and at least 10,000 died. By contrast, by February 2, 17,205 cases of nCoV pneumonia were confirmed and 361 died.”

“The contrast is thought-provoking,” she added.

This comment was part of Hua’s reply to the first question of that day, after criticizing the U.S.’s partial withdrawal of embassy staff and travel restriction as measures that “could only create and spread fear.”

But Hua did not mention that according to a joint study by the China CDC and Fudan University, the annual flu deaths in China during the 2010–11 through 2014–15 seasons was 88,100 (Titled “Influenza-associated excess respiratory mortality in China, 2010–15: A population-based study,” the study was published in The Lancet in September 2019).

Nonetheless, Hua’s comments and related articles appeared throughout government-controlled media outlets, prompting another wave of anti-Americanism. This is yet another example of how the CCP has manipulated the disclosure of information to its advantage amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Coronavirus Versus the Flu

One indicator used by scientists to evaluate how a virus spreads is called the “basic reproduction number,” or R0 (pronounced “R naught”). The seasonal flu has an R0 value of 1.3, the 2009 flu pandemic (also known as swine flu and which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands) had an R0 of 1.48, and the 1918 Spanish flu (responsible for the deaths of 50-100 million) had an R0 of 1.80.

The R0 of the coronavirus is not fully agreed upon. Some consider it between 2 and 3. Eric Feigl-Ding, a public health researcher at Harvard University for 15 years, said the R0 of Covid-19 could be as high as 3.8, which means one contagious person will transmit the virus to an average of 3.8 others. Because of this, he referred to the disease as “thermonuclear pandemic-level bad.”

The death rates of the two diseases also differ drastically. The death rate of the seasonal flu is typically around 0.1% in the U.S., but the mortality rate for COVID-19 appears to be higher. According to a study published in the China CDC Weekly on February 18, researchers found the COVID-19 death rate to be around 2.3% in mainland China.

The flu has a distinct seasonal pattern and there are vaccines and well-established treatments for it. Epidemiologists still do not know what pattern the coronavirus, which WHO declared a pandemic on March 11, follows and there is no vaccine for it yet. As Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, explained, “There's a lot of unknowns.”

The flu has an incubation period of 1-4 days, with an average of two days, but the incubation period for the coronavirus can be up to two weeks, during which time those who are infected may show no symptoms at all, making the disease easier to spread and harder to control.

The CCP’s Quarantine of Coronavirus Information 

The CCP has manipulated information in different ways during the coronavirus outbreak. A telling quote comes from the article “How China Is Working to Quarantine the Truth About the Coronavirus” on defenseone.com: “But the regime is also waging a second battle: a campaign to control the world’s discussions of the first.”

Information censorship is possible because the Chinese government controls the media outlets nationwide. When the outbreak first emerged in December 2019, officials in Wuhan disciplined whistleblowers and warned others not do disclose coronavirus information in any form. The state media, employers, and the police all threatened that anyone who dared to spread “rumors” would be pursued.

After, one of the eight doctors who publicized the epidemic, died of the disease on February 7, the information was beyond cover-up and the public was enraged. So in addition to continued censorship, the CCP tried to downplay the severity of the outbreak. That was when Hua Chunying made the comparison between coronavirus and the flu during her press briefing on February 3. Her comments were part of a massive propaganda campaign both inside China and overseas.

Besides news media, social media platforms also played a critical role. For a long time, posts overwhelmed China's Internet with astonishing phrases such as “Most deadly flu in the U.S. in the past 40 years. Over 13 million people infected and 6,600 dead,” accompanied with a U.S. map mostly colored in red or yellow. The viewership was in the hundreds of millions.

“The ironic result was that just as coronavirus was surging in China, many Chinese nationals living in the United States began to be worriedly asked by their friends and relatives back in China about the ‘dire’ flu situation gripping North America,” according to the article in defenseone.com.

The CCP's Cover-up Turns an Epidemic to a Pandemic 

On February 5, Neil Ferguson, director of the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London, said that the number of cases was “going up all the time.” He estimated that only 10% of all infections in China had been detected at the time.

After more and more people started to doubt the CCP's coronavirus data, the Party adopted another tactic. In “How China Is Working to Quarantine the Truth About the Coronavirus” on defenseone.com, it says, “The final track typically used to shape online discussion and thereby alter real-world beliefs and actions is to push false narratives. To counter anger about the initial slow response to the outbreak, the regime has insisted that the opposite was true, that the government reacted quickly, that hospital facilities were more than adequate. The authoritarian playbook—censor, distract, lie—is on full display.”

The CCP's cover-up of coronavirus information was followed by the quick spread of the disease to the rest of the world. As other countries fight the pandemic, Chinese president Xi Jinping visited Wuhan on March 10, the first time since the outbreak last December, to show that China has “won” the battle against the disease. The next day, Beijing announced a 14-day quarantine on international travelers “to prevent the import of infected cases.”