Communist officials in China have hidden the severity of the coronavirus outbreak within their borders, under-reporting both total cases and fatalities linked to the disease, the U.S. intelligence community reportedly confirmed in a classified report to the White House.
Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province, is the birthplace of the novel coronavirus illness (COVID-19).
During the early stages of the epidemic in China that was later deemed a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), Beijing hid the extent of the viral outbreak, muzzling and jailing whistleblowers and critics in a move that allowed the disease to gain a firm foothold across the world.
Citing three officials familiar with the classified report issued by the American intelligence community, Bloomberg revealed on Wednesday:
The officials asked not to be identified because the report is secret and declined to detail its contents. But the thrust, they said, is that China’s public reporting on cases and deaths is intentionally incomplete. Two of the officials said the report concludes that China’s numbers are fake.The report was received by the White House last week, one of the officials said.
Health officials detected the first case of the coronavirus in China in mid-November 2019. Yet, the Asian giant has publicly reported fewer cases and fatalities than the United States, where officials diagnosed the first person with coronavirus in late January.
Communist China has revised its methodology for counting cases several times. For weeks, the country ignored asymptomatic cases entirely. This week, it finally added over 1,500 cases of people without symptoms to its tally.
On Tuesday, Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, lambasted the incomplete Chinese data, saying it misled experts on the seriousness of the deadly and highly contagious disease.
“I think the medical community interpreted the Chinese data as that this was serious but smaller than anyone expected,” she declared. “Because I think probably we were missing a significant amount of the data.”
Dr. Birx conceded that when she saw early data from China reporting only 50,000 cases of the coronavirus among the 80 million in Hubei province, she felt that the threat was similar to that of SARS, which had 8,098 cases globally and 774 deaths.
It was not until information came out of countries such as Italy, Spain, and South Korea that experts began to see the full picture of the disease’s devastation, she indicated.
While China eventually imposed a strict lockdown beyond those of less autocratic nations, there has been considerable skepticism of China’s reported numbers, both outside and within the country.
China is not the only country with suspect public reporting. Western officials have pointed to Iran, Russia, Indonesia, and especially North Korea, which has not reported a single case of the disease, as probable under-counts. Others, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, may also be playing down their numbers.
On March 25, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasted China’s “intentional disinformation campaign,” drawing the ire of Beijing.
“At the beginning of this, when it was clear that this was an issue, China knew about it, they were the first country to know about the risk to the world from this virus, and they repeatedly delayed sharing that information with the globe,” Pompeo proclaimed.