While the Coronavirus pandemic has infected over 63 million people worldwide and took over 1.4 million lives, it has now come to light that the Chinese authorities had tried to downplay the outbreak of the disease in the country, reported CNN. The news channel has verified over 117 pages of leaked documents from the Hubei Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Downplaying confirmed Coronavirus cases
The documents accessed by CNN show that China presented ‘optimistic data’ to the world, far away from the actual numbers. On February 10, confidential internal documents showed that the total number of confirmed Coronavirus cases was 5,918 while the Chinese government had only placed 2,478 cases (half the original number)in the official data. Similarly, on March 7, the total number of official deaths in Hubei stood at 2,986 while internal report claimed the number to be as 3,456.
“This larger figure was never fully revealed at that time, as China’s accounting system seemed, in the tumult of the early weeks of the pandemic, to downplay the severity of the outbreak,” the report noted. Analysts believe that the discrepancy was the result of the instinct to suppress bad news and a broken reporting system.
Long waiting time for tests and inaccurate results
The internal documents revealed that China’s testing system was flawed from the very onset. As such, most of the data published by the Chinese authorities on a daily basis was thus inaccurate. On January 10, one document revealed that the Coronavirus test kits were regularly providing false-negative results. “The high false-negative rate exposed a series of problems China would take weeks to rectify,” the CNN report noted.
The internal documents also revealed that it took roughly 23.3 days to process a case (from someone experiencing symptoms to confirmed diagnosis). While considering the internal difficulties, experts have conceded that the time lag was extraordinary. “You’re looking at data that’s three weeks old and trying to make a decision for today,” stated Dr Amesh Adalja from John Hopkins Centre for Health Security, as per the CNN report.
Failure of early warning system
The internal documents revealed that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention operations in Hubei was underfunded and lacked the right testing equipment. “The CDC internal report complains over an absence of operational funding from the Hubei provincial government and notes the staffing budget is 29% short of its annual target,” the article stated. Although many of the issues were addressed by the authorities, the broken system created major problems in diagnosis and containing the spread of the disease. Moreover, bureaucratic restrictions meant that the process of rapid data collection was largely hindered.
Flu outbreak in Hubei
As per the report, there was a 20-fold increase in the number of influenza cases in the Hubei province in December 2019, thereby leading to 2059% rise in such cases compared to the previous year. The influenza outbreak affected Xianning (2148 cases), Yichang (6135 cases) and Wuhan (2032 cases) in a massive way. The CNN article stated, “Public data shows a nationwide spike in influenza in December. Experts, however, note the rise in influenza cases, while not unique to Hubei, would have complicated the task of officials on the lookout for new dangerous viruses.”Chi
China concealed crucial information, revealed Intelligence Report
While China had employed a propaganda offensive to counter the increasing pressure mounted by a growing chorus of voices around the world blaming the country for unleashing the coronavirus pandemic, a report prepared by intelligence agencies of five different countries in May had claimed that China had deliberately resorted to falsehoods about the coronavirus outbreak.
The spy dossier put together by the intelligence agencies of the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand stated that despite crystal clear evidence of human-to-human transmission, China withheld the crucial information from the rest of the world until January 20, thereby catching many countries girding for the pandemic flat-footed. The report stated that China’s deliberate opacity in not revealing the full scale of the pandemic was an “assault on international transparency”. “Despite the red flag raised by the officials in Taiwan as early as December 31 and experts in Hong Kong on January 4, China remained tight-lipped about the challenges posed by the infection,” the report observed.