US intelligence report said to conclude China virus numbers are fake
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US intelligence report said to conclude China virus numbers are fake

Officials accuse Beijing of covering up deaths and infection rates, as Vice President Pence says America ‘could have been better off if China had been more forthcoming’

A man wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against the coronavirus walks past a Communist Party flag along a street in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on March 31, 2020. (Noel Celis/AFP)
A man wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against the coronavirus walks past a Communist Party flag along a street in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on March 31, 2020. (Noel Celis/AFP)

A US intelligence report submitted last week to the White House claims that Chinese officials concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, under-reporting both deaths and case figures, according to a report published Wednesday by Bloomberg.

Bloomberg said two of the officials, who declined to be identified, said the report concludes the Chinese numbers are fake and downplays the real mortality rate.

US Vice President Mike Pence criticized Beijing’s role in the crisis during an interview with CNN on Wednesday.

“The reality is that we could have been better off if China had been more forthcoming,” Pence said. “What appears evident now is that long before the world learned in December that China was dealing with this, and maybe as much as a month earlier than that, that the outbreak was real in China.”

A Newsweek report earlier this week said that deaths in China could in fact be in the tens of thousands as opposed to around 3,000 deaths reported so far. Newsweek noted that photos have been circulating on Chinese media of thousands of urns arriving in Wuhan, where the outbreak was initially concentrated late last year, and said loved ones had been instructed to pick up ashes from funeral homes in the city.

Meanwhile, China’s National Health Commission on Wednesday reported 36 new COVID-19 cases, one day after announcing that asymptomatic cases will now be included in the official count.

The commission said all but one of the new cases was imported from abroad, while seven more deaths from the disease had been reported over the previous 24 hours. The commission did not say if any of the new cases were asymptomatic but on Tuesday reported that, of a total of 1,541 asymptomatic cases now being isolated and monitored for symptoms, 205 had come from overseas.

The move to disclose the number of asymptomatic cases comes amid scrutiny of China’s reported figures, which previously only included people who exhibited symptoms. While the proportion of people who have contracted the virus but remain asymptomatic is currently unknown, scientists say these “carriers” can still pass COVID-19 onto others who do end up getting sick.

As China’s domestic outbreak has largely abated, some questioned whether the country’s failure to count asymptomatic cases would lead to a resurgence of infections. China, where the virus was first detected in December, has recorded a total of 81,554 cases of COVID-19 and 3,312 deaths from the disease.

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