Yesterday (26 Jan 2020), the Provincial Government of Hubei hosted a press conference on the latest developments of the coronavirus epidemic, that started from Wuhan, the provincial capital.

Governor of Hubei Wang Xiaodong, Mayor of Wuhan Zhou Xianwang, and Provincial Government Secretary General Bie Bixiong explained the situation and answered the questions.

The press conference was broadcast live on TV. And it could not have gone more wrong.

First, none of the three high ranking official followed the proper protocol for face masks, which were made compulsory in public spaces in the city. Bie had his nose exposed, Zhou wore the mask upside down – and Wang was the only person in the entire room NOT wearing a mask.

The misalignment did not stop here. Wang mentioned that essential suppliers, including protection clothing and face masks, were in severe shortage; Zhou, on the other hand, said that the shortage situation had been ‘largely relieved.”

Guess the number

To reassure the public, Wang mentioned that the mask production capacity in the province was 10.8 billion pieces per year, including 880 million for civilian use and 970 million pieces for medical use.

Does not take a maths genius to figure out the numbers did not add up.

Besides, according to industry reports, the annual production capacity across China is about 7 billion pieces. Almost 90% of the production is concentrated around the coastal provinces, which Hubei is not one.

Realising the mistake, a government assistant passed a small note to the Governor. Upon reading the note, Wang clarified that the capacity should be 180 million, not 10.8 billion.

Another note was passed to the Governor, who clarified again that the right number should be 1.08 million pieces.

Remember, this was broadcast live.

At the end of the conference, all three on stage clapped. While this was quite common way to end government meetings, the circumstances were clearly inappropriate.

Interestingly, all the criticisms online were not censored this time.

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