Bloomberg reports China has concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in its country, under-reporting both total cases and deaths it’s suffered from the disease, the U.S. intelligence community concluded in a classified report to the White House, according to three U.S. officials.
The officials asked not to be identified because the report is secret, and they 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.
The outbreak began in China’s Hubei province in late 2019, but the country has publicly reported only about 82,000 cases and 3,300 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. That compares to more than 189,000 cases and more than 4,000 deaths in the U.S., which has the largest publicly reported outbreak in the world.
Communications staff at the White House and the Chinese embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
“The reality is that we could have been better off if China had been more forthcoming,” Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday on CNN. “What appears evident now is that long before the world learned in December that China was dealing with this, and maybe as much as a month earlier than that, that the outbreak was real in China.
Per Business Insider, US officials have repeatedly accused China of covering up information about its coronavirus cases and of spreading misinformation. China was “the first country to know about the risk to the world from this virus,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a news briefing last week, “and they repeatedly delayed sharing that information with the globe.”
“This data set matters,” Pompeo reiterated on Tuesday, adding that the strategy for combatting the virus “depends on the ability to have confidence and information about what has actually transpired.”
Chinese officials have pushed back on the allegations. Geng Shuang, a Chinese foreign-ministry spokesman, said after Pompeo’s comments last week that China had been transparent and shared accurate information with the US and other countries.
Dr. Deborah Birx, a State Department immunologist and one of the faces of the White House’s coronavirus task force, also suggested on Tuesday that there was a discrepancy between the numbers China reported and its actual cases.
She said the medical community used China’s data to gauge the scope of the outbreak, initially concluding that it was “serious, but smaller than anyone expected.” But “I think probably we were missing a significant amount of the data,” she said, “now that we see what happened to Italy and we see what happened to Spain.”
Reuters reported on Sunday that almost a week had passed since a coronavirus case was reported in Wuhan, as new cases flatten across China. But some Wuhan residents have said they think government officials have not accurately counted the deaths.
A truck driver in Wuhan told the magazine Caixin that he delivered about 5,000 urns to a single funeral home over two days last week, the South China Morning Post reported on Monday.
A photo in Caixin’s report, according to the Post, “purportedly showed 3,500 urns stacked on the floor of the funeral home.”