China defends its coronavirus data after report says US intelligence doubted numbers

Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, talks with experts during his visit to the School of Medicine at Tsinghua University in Beijing, capital of China, March 2, 2020.

Yan Yan | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

China on Thursday denied that it hid the true number of its people who have been infected and killed by the coronavirus outbreak, decrying accusations of concealment as a “despicable attempt to put political interests above human life.”

The blistering statement came a day after Bloomberg, citing three U.S. officials, reported that a classified U.S. intelligence report concluded that China’s public tally of COVID-19 infections and deaths is purposefully incomplete.

In a statement to CNBC, the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., said that Beijing “has fully honored its obligation of notification prescribed by the International Health Regulations, and has been updating the statistics of its confirmed and death cases in an open, transparent and responsible manner.”

“The Chinese government has, out of a strong sense of responsibility for its people’s health, taken the most comprehensive and stringent measures to fight the pandemic,” the statement said.

“Slandering and shifting blame cannot help make up for the lost time,” the embassy added, “nor can they conceal some people’s incompetence in the containment efforts or their despicable attempt to put political interests above human life.”

“In this fight, countries are all interconnected, and they can only prevail by solidarity and stronger cooperation,” the embassy said.

President Donald Trump was asked Wednesday at a White House press briefing whether he had received an intelligence report describing any discrepancies in China’s numbers.

“We have not received” any such reports, Trump said. But he noted that China’s tally appeared “to be a little bit on the light side, and I’m being nice when I say that, relative to what we witnessed and what was reported.”

Trump has previously cast doubt on China’s numbers. But he said at the briefing Wednesday evening that “we really don’t know” if China “underreported or reported however they report.”

The coronavirus pandemic began around the city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei province – though Beijing’s foreign ministry has claimed that it didn’t necessarily originate there.

China has reported 82,432 coronavirus cases, data from Johns Hopkins University shows. That number is less than half of the total cases confirmed in the United States, which has become the country with the highest number of reported infections in the world. More than 217,000 COVID-19 cases have so far been confirmed in the U.S.

While the disease in recent weeks has spread exponentially around the world – especially in parts of the U.S. and Europe – China’s numbers have flattened.

China attributes its apparent success in “flattening the curve” of coronavirus growth to the “comprehensive and stringent measures” it has put in place to fight the pandemic. Those extreme steps reportedly included forcibly holding Wuhan residents in pop-up hospitals, conducting door-to-door health checks and requiring that citizens who showed any symptoms be immediately quarantined.

The total lockdown of daily life seems to have worked, according to China’s numbers.

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