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Wuhan death toll due to coronavirus rises by over 50 percent after China revises, denies cover-up

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The coronavirus death toll in the Chinese city of Wuhan was just raised as officials announced that the initial numbers were incorrectly reported.

The more than 50 percent jump in the death toll rate was reported by China’s state-run media on Friday, taking the numbers up by nearly 1,300 more fatalities in the city where the virus originated, and bringing the death rate to 3,869, according to Reuters.

(Image: Straits Times screenshot)

The additional 1,290 deaths were not reported by the city but Beijing insists there has been no attempted cover-up, even though many, including President Donald Trump, have been speculating about the accuracy of the numbers China has been sharing about the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In the early stage, due to limited hospital capacity and the shortage of medical staff, a few medical institutions failed to connect with local disease control and prevention systems in a timely manner, which resulted in delayed reporting of confirmed cases and some failures to count patients accurately,” a Wuhan city official told the state media, Reuters reported.

After more than two months of complete lockdown, Wuhan was reopened by China’s government earlier this month. But a local task force handling the coronavirus outbreak contended that inaccuracy in the initial numbers was the result of faulty reporting and delays.

According to Reuters:

Reflecting the additional deaths in Wuhan, China revised its national death toll later on Friday up to 4,632. The revision follows widespread speculation that Wuhan’s death toll was significantly higher than reported.

Rumours of more victims were fuelled (sic) for weeks by pictures of long queues of family members waiting to collect ashes of cremated relatives and reports of thousands of urns stacked at a funeral home waiting to be filled.

 

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian pushed back on the criticism, saying that China has “a responsibility to history, to the people and to the deceased” in making sure the information is presented accurately.

“Medical workers at some facilities might have been preoccupied with saving lives and there existed delayed reporting, underreporting or misreporting, but there has never been any cover-up and we do not allow cover-ups,” he said.

Trump alluded to the possibility of a cover-up during remarks at the coronavirus press briefing this week. He spoke Tuesday from the White House about suspending funding for the World Health Organization in light of its mishandling of the outbreak and holding water for the Chinese government. The president again expressed his doubt regarding China’s death tolls during Wednesday’s briefing.

“Do you really believe those numbers in this vast country called China, and that they have a certain number of cases and a certain number of deaths; does anybody really believe that?” Trump asked, referring to the previously declared number of about 3,000 deaths.

Trump is not alone in his skepticism as French President Emmanuel Macron has also voiced questions.

“Let’s not be so naive as to say it’s been much better at handling this,” Macron told British newspaper the Financial Times on Thursday. “There are clearly things that have happened that we don’t know about.”

The new Wuhan numbers raised the nationwide death toll to 4,636 after China’s National Health Commission had reported 3,342 deaths earlier on Thursday. China’s government has come under increasing scrutiny and criticism for failing to notify the public in a timely manner about the impending pandemic.

The new reports of the updated Wuhan numbers only added fuel to the fire of condemnation.

Frieda Powers

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