China’s ‘fake’ virus numbers caused global crisis, says US
Authorities in the US have lashed China for allegedly hiding the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak, leading to nations like Italy, Spain and America facing horrendous death tolls.
The intelligence community in the US concluded in a classified report to the White House that China covered up the widespread scale of the coronavirus outbreak, under-reporting total cases and deaths from the pandemic.
Bloomberg reported that the document accused China of deliberately playing down the extent of COVID-19, and accused China of coming out with "fake" numbers.
This has infuriated officials in the US who say other countries made life and death decisions based on the information coming out of China in the early stages of the pandemic crisis.
Dr Deborah Birx, the US State Department immunologist on the coronavirus task force, said China's public reporting influenced assumptions elsewhere in the world about the nature of the virus.
"The medical community made - interpreted the Chinese data as: This was serious, but smaller than anyone expected," Dr Birx said.
"Because I think probably we were missing a significant amount of the data, now that we see what happened to Italy and see what happened to Spain."
Dr Nicole Saphier from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre said China's apparent misreporting had led directly to the global virus disaster.
"The only truth that has come out of China at this time is the genetic sequence of this virus and that is only because they were under such scrutiny because of the way they handled SARS," Dr Saphier said.
"I think the lack of transparency and accurate information from China has led us to where we are now.
"Had we known how contagious this virus was, how quickly it spread and how many numbers they had, I think they would have implemented a much stronger travel ban initially, and we would have started socially distancing much earlier on.
"Unfortunately we are in this situation now because of a lack of accurate information. "
The outbreak began in China's Hubei province in late 2019, but the country had publicly reported only about 82,000 cases and 3,300 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, which compiles data on worldwide infections and deaths.
That compares to more than 189,000 cases and more than 4000 deaths in the US, which has the largest publicly reported outbreak in the world.
China eventually imposed a strict lockdown, but there has been scepticism of China's reported numbers, both outside and within the country.
When quizzed about President Donald Trump's initial reaction to seemingly downplay the pandemic, Vice President Mike Pence blamed China for concealing information.
Authorities in the States now believe up to 240,000 could be killed by COVID-19 in the US alone.
Originally published as China's 'fake' virus numbers caused global crisis, says US