In a further blow to China’s credibility surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, the communist nation on Friday suddenly jacked up the death toll in the city where the outbreak began.
The action came after weeks of external criticism that China had deliberately hidden the real impact of the virus, though the Chinese government had previously gone to great lengths to defend the coronavirus figures it was reporting.
The death toll in the city of Wuhan was increased by 1,290 to 3,869 — a jump of about 50 percent — while a slight adjustment of 325 additional cases raised the city’s overall caseload to 50,333, according to Fox News.
China attributed the increase to bureaucratic delays, saying that because medical facilities were overwhelmed during the peak of the virus, “belated, missed and mistaken reporting occurred.”
“Due to the insufficiency in admission and treatment capability, a few medical institutions failed to connect with the disease prevention and control system in time, while hospitals were overloaded and medics were overwhelmed with patients,” the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Friday that the change was simply part of the common practice of data revision that happens all the time.
“There has never been any cover-up and we do not allow cover-ups,” Zhao said, according to Bloomberg. “China, in response to COVID-19, has done nothing that should be criticized.”
Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who has long been skeptical of China’s numbers, was among those who tweeted some cynicism to greet the revised count:
Well, well, well: After repeatedly defending the accuracy of their data, Chinese officials revise the coronavirus death toll in Wuhan to 3,869, 50% higher than previously reported https://t.co/aY0drUkKw2 via @WSJ
— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) April 17, 2020
China revises Wuhan coronavirus death toll to 3,869 from 2,579. Not sure what’s motivating this but maybe greater international scrutiny. Some will be placated by this news others will say its still probably way too low.
Put me on the latter camp. #JustSaying
— Charles V Payne (@cvpayne) April 17, 2020
Others said China has some explaining to do.
“There absolutely needs to be a very very deep dive after-the-event review of the lessons, including on the outbreak of the virus … it needs to be driven by the science,” British foreign secretary Dominic Raab said, according to Reuters.
“There’s no doubt: we can’t have business as usual after this crisis, and we’ll have to ask the hard questions about how it came about and about how it could’ve been stopped earlier,” Raab said when asked about the possibility of a future “reckoning” with China.
French President Emmanuel Macron questions China’s handling of coronavirus, saying things “happened that we don’t know about”https://t.co/PoaYqfC6xd
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) April 17, 2020
Over 140K people have lost their lives around the world because of the #CoronavirusPandemic. If China had not deliberately covered up the initial outbreak in Wuhan, we could have prevented the vast majority of those deaths. pic.twitter.com/aLWz5gimgM
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) April 17, 2020
China have revised the death count from #wuhan by 50%, from 2,579 to 3,869.
I don’t believe either of those figures, nor the figures for the rest of China.
The virus spreads across the planet like wildfire yet China contain it mostly to one city? Hmmm
— Westy (@Westywwfc) April 17, 2020
In its reporting on China’s estimates of how many people died from the virus, The New York Times cited unnamed intelligence officials in saying that the “Chinese government itself does not know the extent of the virus and is as blind as the rest of the world.”
“Midlevel bureaucrats in the city of Wuhan, where the virus originated, and elsewhere in China have been lying about infection rates, testing and death counts, fearful that if they report numbers that are too high they will be punished, lose their position or worse,” The Times reported.
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