WUHAN: China’s coronavirus ground-zero city of Wuhan admitted missteps in tallying its death toll as it abruptly raised the count by 50% following growing world doubts about Chinese transparency.
The United States has led the charge in questioning China’s handling of the pandemic and how much information it has really shared with the international community since the virus emerged late last year.
Authorities in Wuhan initially tried to cover up the outbreak, punishing doctors who had raised the alarm online in December, and there have been questions about the government’s recording of infections as it repeatedly changed its counting criteria at the peak of the outbreak.
Wuhan’s epidemic control headquarters said in a social media posting on Friday that it had added 1,290 deaths to the tally in the city, which has suffered the vast majority of China’s fatalities from COVID-19.
That brings the total number of deaths in the city to 3,869. But the city government only added 325 cases, raising the city’s total number of infections to 50,333.
The change also pushes the nationwide death toll up by nearly 39% to 4,632, based on official national data released earlier on Friday.
The official toll in the country of 1.4 billion people, however, remains well below the number of fatalities in much smaller countries such as Italy and Spain.
Chinese scientists have said the virus emerged from a Wuhan food market whose merchandise reportedly included exotic wild animals sold for human consumption.
“We’ll have to ask the hard questions about how it came about and how it couldn’t have been stopped earlier,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Thursday.
French President Emmanuel Macron told the Financial Times it would be “naive” to think China had handled the pandemic well, adding: “There are clearly things that have happened that we don’t know about.”
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian acknowledged that the virus’s rapid spread had contributed to undercounting, but added, “there has never been any concealment, and we’ll never allow any concealment.”