4.1. Narrative on the Events and Its Response Sequence
To develop this narrative, as mentioned above, a large number of sources were consulted, reviewed and some milestones events are presented here. Needless to say, with a vast country like China, with the level of infection of Corona Virus, there are many small yet important events, which may be missed out here. However, the author tried to highlight the key developments in China based on the five following phases:
Very early phase: Until 31 December 2019;
Investigation phase: Until 20 January 2020;
Early intensification phase: Until 31 January 2020;
Criticism, agony and depression phase: Until 14 February 2020;
Positive prevention and curative control phase: Until 29 February 2020.
shows the timeline of key events in five phases. Authors extracted the key events from different news and social media reports. In each phase, five top public concerns are highlighted, which is prepared through word cloud analysis in each phase using the key social media data, as specified in the methodology section.
4.1.1. Very Early Phase: Until 31 December, 2019
As per the available statistics, the earliest case was reported on 1 December, 2019 in Wuhan, and thereafter sporadic cases have been reported all through December, especially in the later part of the month. The first case was reported in a paper [26
] on 1st of December 2019. The health commission of Wuhan municipality reported the first case of Coronavirus (at the time, an unusual disease). These were unusual cases, which took the local physicians by surprise, and it was Dr. Li Wen Liang who reported the unusual case as a possible epidemic in WeChat social media on 30th of December 2019.
4.1.2. Investigation Phase: Until 20 January 2020
This phase was characterized by a crackdown by local government and detailed investigation. Huanan seafood market in Wuhan city was closed on 1st of January. The city government and its health commission investigated the cases in December and called Dr. Li and made him apologize for spreading a rumor on the 31st of December 2019. Three teams of experts from Beijing conducted a detailed investigation from the 31st December to 4th January, 8–16 January and 18–19 January. It was revealed that the disease was a new type of epidemic, which had not been reported earlier. This was announced on 20th of January by a major and well-known doctor, Dr. Zhong Nan Shan, in a CCTV online interview.
4.1.3. Early Intensification Phase: Until 31 January 2020
This was a critical period, when the disease spread was intensified and a relatively large number of casualties was observed. Figure 1
a shows the number of people affected, recovered and dead in China and Hubei province, and Figure 1
b shows the new confirmed and recovered cases in China and Hubei province. At an early part of this phase, a few critical and wise decisions were made:
22nd January: Hubei province announced a Level II public emergency;
23rd of January: Wuhan city was closed and all the entries and exits to the city were restricted. The decision to construct Huoshenshan Hospital (new hospital) for Corona virus cases was announced on this day (23rd January), followed the decision to construct Leishenshan Hospital (another new hospital) decision on 25th January. Ten hospitals in Wuhan city appealed for a supply of medical and other emergency goods from all over the country;
24th January: Hubei province followed the suit, and the whole province was closed for entrance and exit. Hubei, Beijing, Shanghai and eight other provinces declared a public emergency;
25th January: The Supreme court provided instruction on “Fake news” and the negative consequences of this. Tencent, which is the parent company of WeChat, established a website called “Rumors exposed website,” as a platform to reduce rumors;
26th of January: The first emergency supply arrived from Sichuan to Wuhan, along with medical and healthcare staff;
28th January: President Xi Xinping met WHO DG Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and discussed the situation. China Media administration instructed all TV channels to reduce entertainment programs, and to increase broadcasting information and programs on Coronavirus and related news;
29th January: A countrywide emergency was declared;
30th January: The Emergency Committee on the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) under the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005) was reconvened by the World Health Organization Director–General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on 30th January (Geneva time) and a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) was declared;
31st January: People’s Daily, the major Chinese newspaper’ official account, published fake news on a possible medicine (named Shuang Huang Lian, a Chinese antibiotic, of which online orders and users have drastically increased) for Coronavirus by mistake, which caused the panic-buying of the medicine by the public.
4.1.4. Criticism, Agony, Depression and Control Phase: Until 14 February 2020
The next phase was a phase of panic, criticism, agony and sad news. The following events took place that explain this phase:
31st January: Public criticism started on Chinese social media regarding the outbreak of the virus;
1st February: People’s Daily corrected their mistake regarding the fake news. A major media site, Caixin data analysis, showed that public agony had increased and people were growing worried about the future spread of the virus;
2nd February: The new hospital was prepared and handed over to the Army to take control;
3rd February: Sanitization of public spaces started, school entrance examinations were cancelled, and another new hospital was ready;
4–6th February: This was a time of control, where a few major control measures were taken. like a lockdown of villages, towns and cities (earlier, this was restricted to urban areas only). A new policy of “no one will be spared” was started (this enabled the government to enter people’s house and check for virus symptoms). Dou Ban, a major media group, was shut down. Overseas news, especially the spread of Coronavirus in a cruise ship in Japan (Diamond Princess) was broadcast in China through different media;
7th February: The first whistleblower from Wuhan, Dr. Li, passed away, and this caused severe public criticism in social media. This was followed by a depression phase, where several suicides by the infected people were observed, to save their respective family members;
9th February: The Center of Disease Control (CDC) head gave an online interview with Caixin and announced that the virus is a totally new type, of which not much is known yet.
There were several incidences of sacking senior administration people; the China News head was sacked for spreading wrong information (12th February) and Wuhan’s Mayor was replaced (13th February). Holidays (school as well as offices) were extended.
4.1.5. Positive Prevention and Curative Control Phase: Until 29 February 2020
The following phase was a time of positive prevention and curative planning. Several new initiatives were taken through media to address public criticism as well as to lessen public agony:
15th February: A diary of public life in Wuhan was broadcast and shared through social media;
18th February: A touching story of female nurses cutting their hair to cope with the continuous work with protective suits was broadcast in the mass media as well as on social media. Dead bodies post-mortem had started to identify the key medical factors and impacts on the body. On the 18th of February, a unique approach of using a QR code was adopted in Wuhan and then spread to other parts of Hubei province using mobility and safety of the person (in terms of effect of Corona virus). This QR code was used for public transport, entering public areas. Using big data in mobile phones, three color coding were used (Figure 3
): green (safe), yellow (need to be cautious), and red (cannot enter). Printed QR codes were used for the people who did not have mobile phones (like elderly people or children). On 19th
of February, the “no one will be spared” policy was ended.
20th February: A newlywed young doctor passed away, which also created negative sentiment in social media. The issues of vulnerable people like the aged population (11 of them died in an old people’s home in Wuhan, along with the caregiver, which came out in the news on 20th February), physically and mentally challenged people, and their caregivers, received attention in the media;
21st and 22nd February: Data management and its authentication was re-ensured on (Jingzhou city), and goods distribution was re-investigated to ensure a balanced distribution (after a TikTok video which pointed out the imbalance in some areas). Punitive measures were taken for the two leaders of Hubei province for hiding information (22nd February);
23rd February: The last half of this phase was marked by mixed measures: ensuring the free flow of emergency goods and food and punishing those prohibited them (23rd February), and the death of two additional health professionals (23rd February);
26th February: New infection due to the return of overseas Chinese people in some selected provinces;
28th February: The unfortunate incidence of drinking sanitization tablet by mistake by some rural people, caused health issues, and there was another unfortunate incidence of suicide of a junior high school kid who did not have a mobile phone to undertake online classes provided by schools.
4.2. Media Use during/after Coronavirus Spread and Information Types
As mentioned above, an analysis was done by CSM Media Research with 1500 residents all over China on the mobile they use to access different sites. Figure 4
shows different media usage on four different aspects: increased usage after Coronavirus spread, same use as before, less use than before and do not use it for 6 months. Analysis shows that WeChat and TV played a strong role in acquiring information after Coronavirus spread. The amount of applications has also increased compared to other media usage, since it provides real-time information.
The survey also pointed out that 44% people sought to proactively secure information, followed the news and put in their favorites. A total of 33% viewed the information proactively, but did not put it into their favorite news items. A total of 19% people saw the information if it was in the news or media; 2% of people did not bother to take any additional actions for information gathering, while another 2% did not want to hear the negative news on Coronavirus.
shows the types of information accessed by different users through online platforms. It shows that the maximum access was to get information on medicines, followed by a set of other information like food/drink, online education, in-house sports, business information and entertainment and leisure goods. This shows the lifestyle requirements when people were isolated in their home for a long period of time.