An unprepared China played down the spread of the coronavirus in February, keeping thousands of confirmed daily cases a secret even as the pandemic spread rapidly across the world, recently revealed documents show.
Coronavirus test results took an average of more than 23 days, and a previously undisclosed flu outbreak ravaged the future epicenter of the pandemic in December, according to classified documents from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention of the Province of Quebec, Hubei that leaked to CNN.
The Chinese government has maintained that it has been transparent in its public statements about the coronavirus, which was first identified in Wuhan city, Hubei province, late last year.
Chinese officials reported 2,478 coronavirus cases in a single day in February, while officials in Hubei – home to Wuhan – had a confidential list of 5,918 new cases as of that day. Medical staff walk to Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan on January 25th.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, leader of the Communist Party, faced a crisis of legitimacy as the novel coronavirus spread in early 2020. As he moved aggressively to lock down the country, the government’s propensity to avoid reporting bad coronavirus cases and deaths, analysts say
The Chinese State Council asserted in June that the government has always disclosed coronavirus information in a “timely, open and transparent” manner.
However, on February 10th, the government reported 2,478 new cases of the coronavirus, while officials in Hubei had a confidential list of 5,918 new cases as of that day.
From the documents, it is clear that the government has underestimated the number of deaths from COVID-19.
Hubei’s confirmed daily virus death toll is 196 on February 17th. However publicly, Hubei publicly reported that day only 93 deaths.
While the government had officially recorded on March 7th 2986 deaths since the onset of the disease, internal documents reported 3456 deaths, which counted in this figure 647 deaths “clinically diagnosed” and 126 “presumed” deaths.
The government appeared to use the “suspects” category to hide the true number of coronavirus deaths and cases linked to coronaviruses, CNN had reported.
The discrepancy between numbers reported to the public and those to which Hubei officials had access is likely due to both a propensity to suppress bad news and a flawed reporting system, analysts told the News Network.
“It was clear that they had made mistakes and not just mistakes that happen when dealing with a new virus – also bureaucratic and politically motivated mistakes in the way they handled it,” Yanzhong said. Huang, a senior researcher for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, told CNN.
All this underreporting after Chinese President Xi Jinping took aggressive action to lock down much of the country. More than 700 million people have been confined to their homes as the government used sophisticated surveillance technology to enforce the lockdown.
The legitimacy of the Communist Party was at stake in a country where people traded personal freedom for stability and prosperity. The coronavirus threatened all of this.
While officials in Hubei have described their response to the virus as effective, documents show that in March it took more than three weeks for test results to return, making it almost impossible to capture an accurate snapshot of the spread of COVID-19.
Confirmed cases also showed 30-50% positivity when testing returned meaning most tests came back as “false negatives.”