U.S. intelligence officials believe China has concealed the true extent of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, Bloomberg News reports.
The conclusion, according to Bloomberg’s sources, was presented to the White House in a classified report and suggests that China’s reported number of infections and deaths due to COVID-19 are both intentionally incomplete.
Despite being home to the outbreak, which originated in Wuhan in late December, China has reported only 82,361 cases of COVID-19 and 3,316 resulting deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.
The accuracy of China’s official counts relating to the coronavirus have frequently been called into question, even by residents of Wuhan. The official death toll in Wuhan, which currently stands at 2,531, “can’t be right,” a Wuhan resident told Radio Free Asia this week. “The incinerators have been working around the clock, so how can so few people have died?” Other reports have noted that thousands of urns have been delivered to Wuhan in recent days, making the official death toll hard to believe.
And yet China reported zero new local cases in Wuhan from March 18 to March 22. The numbers, according to an analysis in the Post, deserve skepticism.
On Tuesday, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said that China’s apparent undercounting could explain the United States’s lack of preparation to deal with the virus. “I think the medical community interpreted the Chinese data as this was serious, but smaller than anyone expected because I think probably we were missing a significant amount of the data,” she said.