Chi Wang has accused China of a “ breach of trust ”, in concealing the onset of the coronavirus pandemic (April 13). It is important to examine in detail how a potential threat, such as an atypical pneumonia, first appears and gets recognised in a clinical setting. For sure, no one is wheeled in with markings on the forehead, announcing them as the first patient of a future pandemic. It may take several days for a clinical team to recognise a string of new and atypical pneumonia cases, through the presenting features, diagnostic findings, laboratory results, case linkage by location, and the disease response (or lack of it) to therapy. It is only once a certain threshold is crossed that the reporting obligation to the designated local public health authority is set into motion. If the latter has received a report of a similar pattern from other hospitals in the same district or state, the picture becomes more obvious. Clinicians and other specialists and local public health authorities do not want to be caught crying wolf before basic checks have been carried out, although one is trained to err on the reporting side. And so, if the first few cases of atypical pneumonia were seen in the closing weeks of 2019, and WHO was officially informed on December 31 , and the genome of the offending virus was mapped in the next couple of weeks, then this appears to be very good work on the part of Chinese clinicians and microbiologists. It has been reported in the press that the respective centres for disease control of China and the US were talking to each other in the first week of January. Hence, a delay, if any, in responding to the growing crises in other countries, should not be blamed on China alone. The international community should stop this blame game, and work should begin in full earnest in cooperating on the development of preventive and therapeutic measures. Dr Sutinder Bindra, Discovery Bay Help us understand what you are interested in so that we can improve SCMP and provide a better experience for you. We would like to invite you to take this five-minute survey on how you engage with SCMP and the news.