- The US intelligence community has determined that the Chinese government concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in China and gave false statistics to other countries, Bloomberg News reported.
- Officials transmitted a classified report of their findings to the White House last week.
- Sources told Bloomberg that the main conclusion of the report is that China’s public reporting of coronavirus cases is “intentionally incomplete.” One official told the outlet the intelligence document found that China’s numbers are fake.
- China was the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak until recently, when the number of US cases surpassed China’s.
- US and other western officials have repeatedly expressed skepticism about China’s numbers. Residents of Wuhan, China, where the outbreak originated, have also publicly doubted the government’s reporting.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The US intelligence community has determined that the Chinese government concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in China and gave false statistics of the total number of positive cases and deaths in the country, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday.
Intelligence officials transmitted a classified report of their findings to the White House last week. Sources told Bloomberg that the main conclusion of the report is that China’s public reporting of coronavirus cases is “intentionally incomplete.” One official told the outlet the intelligence document found that China’s numbers are fake.
China was the center of the novel coronavirus outbreak until recently, when the number of US cases surpassed China’s. The World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus, which causes a disease known as COVID-19, a pandemic on March 11.
As of April 1, 885,687 people across the globe have been infected and 44,216 have died.
China has publicly reported 82,361 confirmed cases and 3,316 deaths, according to a database from the Johns Hopkins University. Comparatively, the US has 190,089 positive cases and 4,102 deaths, and it is now the global epicenter of the outbreak.
The novel coronavirus outbreak originated in China’s Hubei province in the city of Wuhan. As more and more people began getting sick, China’s communist government implemented strict lockdown procedures and ordered residents to stay inside while officials raced to contain the spread of the virus.
Bloomberg reported that there’s been significant doubt of China’s reported statistics on its coronavirus cases, and that the Chinese government has repeatedly changed its methodology to track cases.
For instance, the report said, for weeks Chinese officials excluded asymptomatic people from being counted as positive cases and only revised that measure on Tuesday, adding more than 1,500 asymptomatic cases to its total count.
US officials have repeatedly accused China of covering up information about its coronavirus cases and of spreading disinformation as the virus continues to spread.
China was “the first country to know about the risk to the world from this virus. And they repeatedly delayed sharing that information with the globe,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a news briefing last week.
“This data set matters,” Pompeo reiterated on Tuesday, adding that the strategy for how to combat the virus “depends on the ability to have confidence and information about what has actually transpired.”
Chinese officials have refuted the allegations, and Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said after Pompeo’s comments that China had been transparent and shared accurate information with the US and other countries.
Dr. Deborah Birx, a State Department immunologist who is one of the faces of the White House coronavirus task force, also suggested there was a discrepancy in what China reported and what the actual numbers were.
The medical community used China’s data to gauge the scope of the disease, Birx said, and said the initial conclusion was that the outbreak was serious but smaller than expected.
But “I think probably we were missing a significant amount of data,” she said, “now that what we see happened to Italy and see what happened to Spain.”
Almost a week has passed since a case of the novel coronavirus has been reported in Wuhan. Coronavirus cases are flattening off across China, Reuters reported on Monday.
But some Wuhan residents also believe that government officials have not accurately counted the number of deaths from the coronavirus.
A truck driver in Wuhan delivered about 5,000 urns to a single funeral home over two days last week, according to the South China Morning Post, which cited a Caixin magazine report.
The Caixin report, according to SCMP, “purportedly showed 3,500 urns stacked on the floor of the funeral home.”
The official death toll in Wuhan “can’t be right … because the incinerators have been working round-the-clock,” one resident, who identified himself by his surname, Zhang, told Radio Free Asia.
“So how can so few people have died?” Zhang asked.
According to RFA, some city residents said on social media that Wuhan’s funeral homes were “handing out 3,500 urns every day.” RFA’s reporting, which could not be independently verified by Insider, said at the current rate, about “42,000 urns would be given out” between March 23 and April 5, when a traditional grave-tending festival begins.
A resident who identified himself by his surname, Mao, also alleged the official death toll was wrong.
“Maybe the authorities are gradually releasing the real figures, intentionally or unintentionally, so that people will gradually come to accept the reality,” Mao told RFA.