Chernobyl’s nuclear reactor exploded in Ukraine on April 26, 1986, killed 31 people and resulted in the mass evacuation and abandonment of a huge area. In total 50,000 people were evacuated. However, the Soviet Union did not admit that an accident had occurred at the nuclear site until two days later.
Had the USSR sounded the alarm worldwide sooner, the global ramifications of the accident would perhaps not have been so severe.
Similarly, when doctors first tried to warn of the outbreak of coronavirus – Covid-19 – in December in Chinese social media platform Weibo, they were shut down by authorities.
Dr Li Wenliang tried to warn his fellow of an outbreak of a “SARS-like” coronavirus.
However, within 24 hours Wuhan police were investigating Doctor Li Wenliang for spreading an illegal “rumour”.
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Now, one expert on foreign policy has claimed there are striking similarities with the ways in which both cases have been handled.
Tom Rogan, a foreign policy commentator for the Washington Examiner, said both Xi Jinping, president of the People’s Republic of China, and Mikhail Gorbachev, who was leader of the Soviet Union at the time of the Chernobyl disaster, attempted to downplay the incidents and deflect blame to the “arrogant” west.
Mr Rogan wrote: “In both cases, communist regimes waited too long to admit they had a problem, placing the illusion of government control and stability ahead of the preservation of human life.
“This caused the risks and the number of deaths to grow unnecessarily.
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Xi Jinping, president of the People’s Republic of China
“In both cases, the lack of transparency increased the risk to the entire world.
“We know that the Chinese central government is now engaged in an all-encompassing effort to censor reporting on the nature, scale, and inadequacy of its response to the outbreak.
“We know that, like Mikhail Gorbachev, Xi Jinping has distanced himself from the virus.
“He still has not visited Wuhan, preferring to declare a people’s war against the virus and engage in ludicrous walkabouts through Beijing.
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“The shared truths of Chernobyl and coronavirus are clear. These are two terrible accidents, dramatically worsened by grotesque mismanagement and magnified by avoidable secondary injustices at the highest levels of the state.”
Coronavirus has now infected more than 45,000 people across the globe, resulting in more than 1,100 deaths.
There have been eight confirmed cases in the UK, although no one has died in the British isles as a result of the virus.
On Monday, the Department of Health declared COVID-19 a “serious and imminent threat” to public health. However, the overall risk of contracting the virus in the UK remains “moderate”.