Passenger on a freighter

1685 views
20 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 17,001 posts
Passenger on a freighter
Posted by daveklepper on Friday, April 10, 2020 2:20 AM

by 
·        Rose Georgearchive page
April 8, 2020
 
Ten years ago, I ran away to sea. My stepfather, who had aggressive dementia, had been sent to a secure unit. I had a book to write. So once I felt sure enough about my mother’s safety, I departed for 9,288 nautical miles on a container ship, the Maersk Kendal.
Its journey from Europe to Asia would take five weeks, and I would be the only passenger. This was no cruise ship: there would be no organized entertainment, fancy restaurants, or on-board cinema. And back in 2010, there was no Wi-Fi, no TV, and only dial-up emails sent once a day through the captain’s account, plus an expensive satellite phone that I used once to check that my mother was okay. What, my friends said, would I do? How would I fill all that time? 
Today, I am marooned in my house because of coronavirus. This is only the second time I have had my freedom truly restricted. Perhaps the first experience has trained me for the second? 
My friends thought endless days at sea meant inevitable loneliness and isolation; I thought it meant escape. I’d lugged books with me and I had work to do. Besides, I had company. There would be 21 crew members on board the ship too, although I couldn’t know how they would accept me, nor whether I would feel safe.
The first day was a bad portent: left alone for hours, I wandered the ship and wondered where everyone was (they were busy, it turns out, as they always are in port). The chilly welcome was made worse by dinner, where no one spoke. My attempts at conversation sank like a dying whale, and I returned to my cabin in a state of unease. If it was going to be like this, I wasn’t sure I’d last a week.
Throughout history, plenty of sailors have gone mad at sea. Even now, 2,000 seafarers a year die or are killed; the number of those that are suicides is unclear. Compared with some, this was a good ship, with a small library (mostly trash fiction), a small gym with room for a treadmill, bike, and rowing machine, and two lounges with a Wii-outfitted TV and karaoke. But what it lacked was socializing. There was no bar and no alcohol allowed. A basketball hoop on the poop deck was unused; so was a rusty oil drum barbecue, placed uninvitingly under the constant groaning of the refrigerated containers. The tiny swimming pool had been empty for years. After dinner, the crew retreated to their cabins. The lounges stayed mostly empty: only once did I hear some karaoke song by Journey that traveled up the stairwell. The captain reminisced about the old days, when they rigged up a sheet and watched films together on the deck. No more: now the crew had laptops and loneliness. 
Humans who don’t need contact are rare. We thrive on company: loneliness and social isolation produce higher rates of morbidity and mortality. Recent research suggests that social isolation raises the chance of an earlier death by nearly 30%, and living alone increases it by 32%. A ship used to be an unusual place: perhaps only spaceships and submarines were similar, in that they must serve as home, work, and leisure space. But now we all are stuck in a space that must be everything, with infrequent relief; space that, no matter how big, is narrowing with each passing day. 
On board, I chafed at first. I missed the internet, the immediacy of its answers and the connection. When we called into a port, I rushed ashore not just to fetch necessities, but also simply to be somewhere else, to be on land that didn’t move. By the third week, I had been institutionalized: I cared more about nautical charts than my emails. Eventually I made friends. The chilly captain I’d met on arrival was replaced by a charming, chatty one with whom I’m still friends. Sometimes we stood on the bridge wings, outside the wheelhouse, just to look at the sea. There was nothing there but water, and that was fine. 
I welcomed this restricted life. There was a purity to the removal of choice that felt relaxing. But it was finite. I didn’t have the grueling hard labor of the crew, nor the tiring watches of the officers, nor their multi-month contracts to serve at sea. Because of the nature of modern ships, where crews are constantly changed, it is easy to experience isolation in company. Seafarers’ social relations, academics have written, “are experienced as a series of discontinuous encounters.” The Filipino crew called their job “dollar for homesickness” or “prison with a salary.” Isolation, whether social or physical, makes the body pay. It raises cortisol levels and leads to chronic inflammation, which is linked to heart trouble and cancer. The ship changed my body, but it was the relentless thrumming of the engine at night that shook my mind asunder. I woke every morning after dreams of such violence I had to shake them free like sand. 
The hardest period was a week of pirate lockdown when we were passing through the Indian Ocean. I could no longer walk on deck to the fo’c’sle and lean over and watch the bulbous bow slicing through water. All windows had blackout blinds at night. Suddenly I missed fresh air and the freedom to open a door and go outside, even if outside was a metal deck. 
For now, stuck at home in a pandemic, I still have outside. Here in Britain we are permitted outdoor exercise once a day, and tending to vegetable gardens is also allowed. I have every technological communication tool at my disposal and am far better connected than I was at sea. But there is one deprivation that hits me hard, and I recognize it. After several weeks at sea, I missed land. Not the land of quays and ugly port concrete, but the hills and wild country of Yorkshire. A wildness different from the ocean. To run through moorland heather; to pelt down sliding scree. To be somewhere that didn’t sound like a ship engine, relentless. 
Many years after learning to run on the treadmill at the gym, I became a hill runner. Until last week, I’d spent almost every weekend of the last few years racing in beautiful wild country. That is now forbidden for those of us who do not live at the foot of moors or mountains, and people who drive to the countryside to walk are now policed by sinister drones and shamed on social media. 
Still my serenity is so far intact, but I know that won’t last. When it burns out, I will remember my lesson from pirate week, when my fresh air was removed and time stretched so slowly: This will end. We will reach the safe zone on the other side—at the end of pirate waters on the south coast of Oman, or in several months’ time—and I will disembark and open the door and head for the hills.
Rose George is a British author and journalist. She is the author of books including Nine PintsNinety Percent of Everything, and The Big Necessity.
 
From the MIT Alumni Magazine, Technology Review
 
  • Member since
    September 2017
  • 3,724 posts
Posted by charlie hebdo on Sunday, April 12, 2020 9:13 AM

Post the link and a brief summary. It's not difficult. 

  • Member since
    January 2002
  • From: Equestria
  • 8,060 posts
Posted by zugmann on Sunday, April 12, 2020 7:28 PM

TL;DR. 

 The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other railroad, company, or person.

  • Member since
    May 2015
  • 1,654 posts
Posted by 243129 on Sunday, April 12, 2020 7:46 PM

charlie hebdo

Post the link and a brief summary. It's not difficult. 

 

Big Smile

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 17,001 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, April 12, 2020 8:54 PM

Not that long and appropriate.  Source given if you wish to skip.  My thread.  Nobdy forced to read.  Further discussionm other than others' freighter trip reports, which are welcome and encouraged, internet address: daveklepper@yahoo.com

When my Aunt Leah Klepper moved from New York to Tel Aviv in 1950, I saw her off on a freighter.

And TR OK'd distribution of any article dealing with the Coronavirus.  Of course the experience of being a freighter passenger is what interested me, and I doubt very much that the few who recommended just a URL represent anything like a majoriy of the readers, if not the posters.

  • Member since
    June 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 4,767 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Monday, April 13, 2020 8:21 AM

Dave they have such episodes on Youtube now, frieghter passengers or crew members taping what they do during the voyage.    I would never do it.   Accomodations are too spartan, would be roughly akin to staying at a flop house.   The food didn't always look that well prepared either and you didn't necessarily have a choice on what to eat.     I have noticed among cruise ship lines that the one cruise ship line with the very least amount of issues, no widespread sickness, no engine fire or engine failure, etc, etc.    Has been CUNARD lines.    The only drawback is the silly requirement you have to wear a full tux for three of the nights of your transatlantic cruise or largely stay locked in your cabin.    I think they need to get rid of that nonsense.    Otherwise, they are never in the headlines for nightmare cruise scenarios.     I think it is the better choice of crew screening as well as better management.    Plus all their ships are engineered for rough weather crossings vs the Cruise Ships which are not engineered for that.

  • Member since
    December 2008
  • From: Toronto, Canada
  • 1,981 posts
Posted by 54light15 on Monday, April 13, 2020 12:09 PM

Do modern Cunard ships have classes like in the 1930s? I recall when travel by freighter was reasonably common in the 1960s where freighters would take as many as 12 people, sometimes more. There would be the occasional Sunday newspaper article about it and how it was a good way to go. 

  • Member since
    June 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 4,767 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Monday, April 13, 2020 4:32 PM

54light15
Do modern Cunard ships have classes like in the 1930s? I recall when travel by freighter was reasonably common in the 1960s where freighters would take as many as 12 people, sometimes more. There would be the occasional Sunday newspaper article about it and how it was a good way to go. 

Yes they do but they renamed them from when they sailed the Titanic.

You can go to the CUNARD website and see what they are.   Cheapest class is in the lower innards of the ship usually with a fake window that shows a monitor of a camera view facing outside.

Look at some of the youtube videos of the Queen Mary crossing the North Atlantic during a bad winter storm.    Very, very cool.    Ship glides through the water with huge waves crashing against it's side.    Not much rocking that is noticeable on camera at least.   They deep discount the winter crossing voyages because you can't really be out on deck in such weather and some are afraid to cross then.

As Dave can attest, Travel by Freighter takes a LONG time to get to where your going.   Because typically they travel slow and indirect routes, also I think the size and draft of a freight ship makes a difference as well in slowing it down.    CUNARD's Queen Mary II is one of the fastest ships afloat.

  • Member since
    July 2010
  • From: Louisiana
  • 2,066 posts
Posted by Paul of Covington on Monday, April 13, 2020 4:38 PM

54light15

Do modern Cunard ships have classes like in the 1930s? I recall when travel by freighter was reasonably common in the 1960s where freighters would take as many as 12 people, sometimes more. There would be the occasional Sunday newspaper article about it and how it was a good way to go. 

 

   I remember hearing that the reason for the twelve passenger rule was that a ship carrying more than twelve passengers had to have a doctor on board.  There may have been other amenities required, too.  Many of the United Fruit Co.'s banana boats would carry up to twelve passengers.  In 1946 and 1949 we made round trips from Honduras to New Orleans and back on these ships, and I find it hard to think of them as freighters.  The cabins were clean and well maintained, and we were treated royally.  In 1951 when we moved to New Orleans, the ship we were on was a "banana/cruise ship" that carried a lot more passengers.  As a kid (I was eleven), I much preferred the twelve passenger ships.  We pretty much had the run of the ship on them while the cruise ship had us restricted to the passenger areas.  Come to think of it, as a grown-up, I think I would still prefer the twelve passenger ships.

_____________

  "So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do." ......  Benjamin Franklin

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 17,001 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Monday, April 13, 2020 5:15 PM

I have to admit that about 39 years ago, after my then girl-friend accompanied me on a few railfan trips, including one or two each on Mountain View and LV 353, she insisted on a Carnival Cruise.  It met expectations, including a piano which I used, but utterly unlike the descripstion of the freightor trip, and of course I enjoyed the brief train trips NY - Florida and return more.  My then girl-friend did enjoy Amtrak CZ Chicago - Salt Lake City and return as much as the Carnival Cruise.

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: US
  • 19,352 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Monday, April 13, 2020 8:26 PM

Deck walk around the Maersk Montana

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkqGwWQTsF4

 

  • Member since
    September 2011
  • 4,882 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Monday, April 13, 2020 8:54 PM

daveklepper
When my Aunt Leah Klepper moved from New York to Tel Aviv in 1950, I saw her off on a freighter.

Was it the Exodus ? 

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 5,311 posts
Posted by Flintlock76 on Tuesday, April 14, 2020 9:07 AM

MidlandMike

 

 
daveklepper
When my Aunt Leah Klepper moved from New York to Tel Aviv in 1950, I saw her off on a freighter.

 

Was it the Exodus ? 

 

No.

Long story short:

After it's 1947 voyage Exodus  was tied to a pier and allowed to go derelict.  It was going to be turned into a museum ship, "The Ship That Launched A Nation" but caught fire during the restoration and burned beyond salvage.  It was scrapped in 1952. 

You can find the whole story on "The Google Machine."

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 13,474 posts
Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, April 14, 2020 9:55 AM

Flintlock76
After it's 1947 voyage Exodus was tied to a pier and allowed to go derelict.  It was going to be turned into a museum ship, "The Ship That Launched A Nation," but caught fire during the restoration and burned beyond salvage.

What a surprise.  How reminiscent of the Normandie and the 'secret agenda' that kept her designer from saving her...

After independence in 1949, of course, there was no longer a need for any sort of Aliyah Bet operation, and presumably by 1950 free entry to Israel was assured (certainly after the Law of Return was passed in early July of that year).

Note the origin of this ship.  Other ships in Aliyah B came from similar sources, including other Hudson River and East Coast 'packet' services; it is interesting to see some of the approaches used to get these ships to where they could be transporting survivors "illegally" even as government attention focused more and more on 'Zionist' shipowners like Direcktor in the postwar years.

I have always wondered if some of the general climate of those years carried over into Mr. Cantor's attempt to get those two big Sea Coach ships built.  There is little question that some unfortunate prejudice was involved; on the other hand, it seems more than a little dog-in-the-manger that Cantor wouldn't outsource the physical design (about $1.7 million toward the end) to an 'established shipping line' but retain all the hotel and service rights to actually staff the hospitality and 'purser' functions of the operation...

There is a highly colored wishful-thinking account of some of the Aliyah B sort of activity in one of Mark Helprin's novels, involving considerable machinery to disable and sink some of the British blockade ships...

  • Member since
    December 2008
  • From: Toronto, Canada
  • 1,981 posts
Posted by 54light15 on Tuesday, April 14, 2020 10:22 AM

I've always wondered what happened to the Exodus ship. The pictures I've seen of it, it looked like a coastal ship that wouldn't really be suited for the mid-Atlantic. A shame it was left ot rot but I imagine that Israel in those years had other fish to fry. 

Remember the movie, "Exodus?" At the premiere, about 3 hours in, Mort Sahl yelled out, "Otto, let my people go!" Otto Preminger's reaction was not recorded. 

  • Member since
    June 2003
  • From: South Central,Ks
  • 6,673 posts
Posted by samfp1943 on Wednesday, April 15, 2020 9:27 AM

daveklepper

Not that long and appropriate.  Source given if you wish to skip.  My thread.  Nobdy forced to read.  Further discussionm other than others' freighter trip reports, which are welcome and encouraged, internet address: daveklepper@yahoo.com

When my Aunt Leah Klepper moved from New York to Tel Aviv in 1950, I saw her off on a freighter.

And TR OK'd distribution of any article dealing with the Coronavirus.  Of course the experience of being a freighter passenger is what interested me, and I doubt very much that the few who recommended just a URL represent anything like a majoriy of the readers, if not the posters.

  

       While Sea going freight ship trips are sort of uncommon, they can be taken; with some research, or 'connections'.

       My inlaws[wife's parents] used to take an unusual week-long trip each year for a vacation getaway.  It was on an ore freighter, the usual route was from Cleveland to Duluth.  The 'run' was a regular 'milk run' done  for Wheeling-Pittsburg Steel Co.  The ship had assigned attendents for the passengers and also  v.i.p. cabins available, and food & bar services; I was told they were always excelent.     It was a round trip, which left the 'passengers' to enjoy their free time, and their own devices.  The only interruptions to their time were during the wash-down of the ship; post unloading, and reloading. Otherwise, the guests had the run of the deck areas. 

 

 


 

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 17,001 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, April 15, 2020 1:46 PM

Thanks!  More such reports the better!

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 17,001 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, April 15, 2020 1:55 PM

Regarding the Exodus, there is an excellent book, The Jews' Secret Navy, that goes into ita voyage and that of other ships that attempted to  break through the British blockade to deliver European Jews who  survived the Holocaust and wished to renew their lives in the Holy Land.  Most did make it eventually.  It's well written, and I wish I had kept a copy and that I remembered the two authors' names.  Most of the crews were WWII USA service veterans and volunteered without pay.

  • Member since
    January 2010
  • 361 posts
Posted by seppburgh2 on Thursday, April 16, 2020 5:19 PM

Thanks for sharing a bit of history not normally encounter.

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 17,001 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, April 16, 2020 8:07 PM

I may upset some readers by a posting that some will judge far too long.  But it is a thorough and thoughtful history of how the problem started from a very impartial analysis and deserves to be read by everyone.  From the Associated Press:

Six days.
That delay from Jan. 14 to Jan. 20 was neither the first mistake made by Chinese officials at all levels in confronting the outbreak, nor the longest lag, as governments around the world have dragged their feet for weeks and even months in addressing the virus.
But the delay by the first country to face the new coronavirus came at a critical time — the beginning of the outbreak. China’s attempt to walk a line between alerting the public and avoiding panic set the stage for a pandemic that has infected more than 2 million people and taken more than 133,000 lives.
“This is tremendous,” said Zuo-Feng Zhang, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “If they took action six days earlier, there would have been much fewer patients and medical facilities would have been sufficient. We might have avoided the collapse of Wuhan’s medical system.”
Other experts noted that the Chinese government may have waited on warning the public to stave off hysteria, and that it did act quickly in private during that time.
But the six-day delay by China’s leaders in Beijing came on top of almost two weeks during which the national Center for Disease Control did not register any cases from local officials, internal bulletins obtained by the AP confirm. Yet during that time, from Jan. 5 to Jan. 17, hundreds of patients were appearing in hospitals not just in Wuhan but across the country.
It’s uncertain whether it was local officials who failed to report cases or national officials who failed to record them. It’s also not clear exactly what officials knew at the time in Wuhan, which only opened back up last week with restrictions after its quarantine.
But what is clear, experts say, is that China’s rigid controls on information, bureaucratic hurdles and a reluctance to send bad news up the chain of command muffled early warnings. The punishment of eight doctors for “rumor-mongering,” broadcast on national television on Jan. 2, sent a chill through the city’s hospitals.
“Doctors in Wuhan were afraid,” said Dali Yang, a professor of Chinese politics at the University of Chicago. “It was truly intimidation of an entire profession.”
Without these internal reports, it took the first case outside China, in Thailand on Jan. 13, to galvanize leaders in Beijing into recognizing the possible pandemic before them. It was only then that they launched a nationwide plan to find cases — distributing CDC-sanctioned test kits, easing the criteria for confirming cases and ordering health officials to screen patients. They also instructed officials in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, to begin temperature checks at transportation hubs and cut down on large public gatherings. And they did it all without telling the public.
The Chinese government has repeatedly denied suppressing information in the early days, saying it immediately reported the outbreak to the World Health Organization.
“Those accusing China of lacking transparency and openness are unfair,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Wednesday when asked about the AP story.
_________________________
The documents show that the head of China’s National Health Commission, Ma Xiaowei, laid out a grim assessment of the situation on Jan. 14 in a confidential teleconference with provincial health officials. A memo states that the teleconference was held to convey instructions on the coronavirus from President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, but does not specify what those instructions were.
“The epidemic situation is still severe and complex, the most severe challenge since SARS in 2003, and is likely to develop into a major public health event,” the memo cites Ma as saying.
The National Health Commission is the top medical agency in the country. In a faxed statement, the Commission said it had organized the teleconference because of the case reported in Thailand and the possibility of the virus spreading during New Year travel. It added that China had published information on the outbreak in an “open, transparent, responsible and timely manner,” in accordance with “important instructions” repeatedly issued by President Xi.
The documents come from an anonymous source in the medical field who did not want to be named for fear of retribution. The AP confirmed the contents with two other sources in public health familiar with the teleconference. Some of the memo’s contents also appeared in a public notice about the teleconference, stripped of key details and published in February.
Under a section titled “sober understanding of the situation,” the memo said that “clustered cases suggest that human-to-human transmission is possible.” It singled out the case in Thailand, saying that the situation had “changed significantly” because of the possible spread of the virus abroad.
“With the coming of the Spring Festival, many people will be traveling, and the risk of transmission and spread is high,” the memo continued. “All localities must prepare for and respond to a pandemic.”
In the memo, Ma demanded officials unite around Xi and made clear that political considerations and social stability were key priorities during the long lead-up to China’s two biggest political meetings of the year in March. While the documents do not spell out why Chinese leaders waited six days to make their concerns public, the meetings may be one reason.
“The imperatives for social stability, for not rocking the boat before these important Party congresses is pretty strong,” says Daniel Mattingly, a scholar of Chinese politics at Yale. “My guess is, they wanted to let it play out a little more and see what happened.”
In response to the teleconference, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing initiated the highest-level emergency response internally, level one, on Jan. 15. It assigned top CDC leaders to 14 working groups tasked with getting funds, training health workers, collecting data, doing field investigations and supervising laboratories, an internal CDC notice shows.
The National Health Commission also distributed a 63-page set of instructions to provincial health officials, obtained by the AP. The instructions ordered health officials nationwide to identify suspected cases, hospitals to open fever clinics, and doctors and nurses to don protective gear. They were marked “internal” — “not to be spread on the internet,” “not to be publicly disclosed.”
In public, however, officials continued to downplay the threat, pointing to the 41 cases public at the time.
“We have reached the latest understanding that the risk of sustained human-to-human transmission is low,” Li Qun, the head of the China CDC’s emergency center, told Chinese state television on Jan. 15. That was the same day Li was appointed leader of a group preparing emergency plans for the level one response, a CDC notice shows.
On Jan. 20, President Xi issued his first public comments on the virus, saying the outbreak “must be taken seriously” and every possible measure pursued. A leading Chinese epidemiologist, Zhong Nanshan, announced for the first time that the virus was transmissible from person to person on national television.
If the public had been warned a week earlier to take actions such as social distancing, mask wearing and travel restrictions, cases could have been cut by up to two-thirds, one paper later found. An earlier warning could have saved lives, said Zhang, the doctor in Los Angeles.
However, other health experts said the government took decisive action in private given the information available to them.
“They may not have said the right thing, but they were doing the right thing,” said Ray Yip, the retired founding head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s office in China. “On the 20th, they sounded the alarm for the whole country, which is not an unreasonable delay.”
If health officials raise the alarm prematurely, it can damage their credibility — “like crying wolf” —and cripple their ability to mobilize the public, said Benjamin Cowling, an epidemiologist at the University of Hong Kong.
The delay may support accusations by President Donald Trump that the Chinese government’s secrecy held back the world’s response to the virus. However, even the public announcement on Jan. 20 left the U.S. nearly two months to prepare for the pandemic.
During those months, Trump ignored the warnings of his own staff and dismissed the disease as nothing to worry about, while the government failed to bolster medical supplies and deployed flawed testing kits. Leaders across the world turned a blind eye to the outbreak, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for a strategy of “herd immunity” — before falling ill himself. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro sneered at what he called “a little cold.”
The early story of the pandemic in China shows missed opportunities at every step, the documents and AP interviews reveal. Under Xi, China’s most authoritarian leader in decades, increasing political repression has made officials more hesitant to report cases without a clear green light from the top.
“It really increased the stakes for officials, which made them reluctant to step out of line,” said Mattingly, the Yale professor. “It made it harder for people at the local level to report bad information.”
Doctors and nurses in Wuhan told Chinese media there were plenty of signs that the coronavirus could be transmitted between people as early as late December. Patients who had never been to the suspected source of the virus, the Huanan Seafood Market, were infected. Medical workers started falling ill.But officials obstructed medical staff who tried to report such cases. They set tight criteria for confirming cases, where patients not only had to test positive, but samples had to be sent to Beijing and sequenced. They required staff to report to supervisors before sending information higher, Chinese media reports show. And they punished doctors for warning about the disease.
As a result, no new cases were reported for almost two weeks from Jan. 5, even as officials gathered in Wuhan for Hubei province’s two biggest political meetings of the year, internal China CDC bulletins confirm.
During this period, teams of experts dispatched to Wuhan by Beijing said they failed to find clear signs of danger and human-to-human transmission.
“China has many years of disease control, there’s absolutely no chance that this will spread widely because of Spring Festival travel,” the head of the first expert team, Xu Jianguo, told Takungpao, a Hong Kong paper, on Jan. 6. He added there was “no evidence of human-to-human transmission” and that the threat from the virus was low.
The second expert team, dispatched on Jan. 8, similarly failed to unearth any clear signs of human-to-human transmission. Yet during their stay, more than half a dozen doctors and nurses had already fallen ill with the virus, a retrospective China CDC study published in the New England Journal of Medicine would later show.
The teams looked for patients with severe pneumonia, missing those with milder symptoms. They also narrowed the search to those who had visited the seafood market — which was in retrospect a mistake, said Cowling, the Hong Kong epidemiologist, who flew to Beijing to review the cases in late January.
In the weeks after the severity of the epidemic became clear, some experts accused Wuhan officials of intentionally hiding cases.
“I always suspected it was human-to-human transmissible,” said Wang Guangfa, the leader of the second expert team, in a Mar. 15 post on Weibo, the Chinese social media platform. He fell ill with the virus soon after returning to Beijing on Jan. 16.
Wuhan’s then-mayor, Zhou Xianwang, blamed national regulations for the secrecy.
“As a local government official, I could disclose information only after being authorized,” Zhou told state media in late January. “A lot of people didn’t understand this.”
As a result, top Chinese officials appear to have been left in the dark.
“The CDC acted sluggishly, assuming all was fine,” said a state health expert, who declined to be named out of fear of retribution. “If we started to do something a week or two earlier, things could have been so much different.”
It wasn’t just Wuhan. In Shenzhen in southern China, hundreds of miles away, a team led by microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung used their own test kits to confirm that six members of a family of seven had the virus on Jan. 12. In an interview with Caixin, a respected Chinese finance magazine, Yuen said he informed CDC branches “of all levels,” including Beijing. But internal CDC numbers did not reflect Yuen’s report, the bulletins show.
When the Thai case was reported, health authorities finally drew up an internal plan to systematically identify, isolate, test, and treat all cases of the new coronavirus nationwide.
Wuhan’s case count began to climb immediately — four on Jan. 17, then 17 the next day and 136 the day after. Across the country, dozens of cases began to surface, in some cases among patients who were infected earlier but had not yet been tested. In Zhejiang, for example, a man hospitalized on Jan. 4 was only isolated on Jan. 17 and confirmed positive on Jan. 21. Shenzhen, where Yuen had earlier found six people who tested positive, finally recorded its first confirmed case on Jan. 19.
The Wuhan Union Hospital, one of the city’s best, held an emergency meeting on Jan. 18, instructing staff to adopt stringent isolation — still before Xi’s public warning. A health expert told AP that on Jan. 19, she toured a hospital built after the SARS outbreak, where medical workers had furiously prepared an entire building with hundreds of beds for pneumonia patients.
“Everybody in the country in the infectious disease field knew something was going on,” she said, declining to be named to avoid disrupting sensitive government consultations. “They were anticipating it.”
___
Contact AP’s global investigative team at Investigative@ap.org
  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 13,474 posts
Posted by Overmod on Thursday, April 16, 2020 11:36 PM

daveklepper
Regarding the Exodus, there is an excellent book, The Jews' Secret Navy ...

Isn't this 'The Jews' Secret Fleet', by Greenfield and Hochstein, mid-1990s?

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy