China Underreported Covid-19 Cases, Deaths: US Intelligence
Mon, April 19, 2021

China Underreported Covid-19 Cases, Deaths: US Intelligence


China has underreported the total cases and deaths from the Covid-19 pandemic, alleged US intelligence in a confidential report to the White House. / Photo by IHOR SULYATYTSKYY via Shutterstock


China has underreported the total cases and deaths from the Covid-19 pandemic, alleged US intelligence in a confidential report to the White House.

The three US officials, who requested anonymity, shared to Bloomberg that the thrust of the confidential report is that China has concealed the extent of the outbreak, and that the Covid-19 cases and deaths it reported to the public are fake. The officials said they cannot detail the contents but it was already received by the White House.


China’s actual virus data concealed

Trump said earlier in a daily briefing that China’s virus data seems to be “a little bit on the light side.” His comments though came before the coronavirus task force received the intelligence report. China publicly reported 3,300 Covid-19 cases and 3,300 deaths, based on the data provided by the John Hopkins University. On the other hand, the US now has more than 189,000 cases and more than 4,000 deaths. The US President also mentioned the US-China trade deal, wherein Beijing plans to spend $250 billion to purchase US products. Both nations want to keep it that way.


The Chinese authorities have also kept on changing its counting method of coronavirus cases. / Photo by IHOR SULYATYTSKYY via Shutterstock


COVID-19 task force’s Dr. Deborah Birx, who specializes in immunology, global health, and vaccine research, said that the public report provided by China influenced the assumptions in other countries about the nature of the infectious disease. In the medical community, they have interpreted China’s data that the situation is serious but smaller than what is expected. Now that they see what is happening in Italy and Spain, Dr. Birx said that they were probably “missing a significant amount of the data.”

Vice President Mike Pence has also blamed China for concealing the actual number of people affected by the virus in China. “We could have been better off if China had been more forthcoming,” he said.


Different counting methods caused confusion

Although China imposed a lockdown stricter beyond other nations, there has been skepticism toward the reported numbers both within their country and outside. The Chinese authorities have also kept on changing its counting method of coronavirus cases. In February, its cases declined after they discounted cases that came back negative after the laboratory tests. There was also a time when inspectors wore protective suits and went door-to-door in Wuhan to search for every infected person in the area. There were weeks when the government excluded asymptomatic patients entirely but added more than 1,500 when they included those patients without symptoms.



Urns in funeral homes raise a question

The stacks and long lines of ash urns at the funeral homes in Wuhan have also spurred questions about the actual scale of the Covid-19 casualties. As families of the deceased Covid-19 patients picked up the cremated ashes of their loved ones in eight different funeral homes, photos circulated on social media. One funeral home shipped about 2,500 urns in two days, Chinese media Caixin reported. There was another photo that showed 3,500 urns left on the ground inside the funeral home. Six of the eight funeral homes in Wuhan, China answered in a phone call that they were not authorized to disclose the number or they did not have the data yet.

The conclusion of the US intelligence report, though, is only an attempt to divert people’s attention from the increasing deaths in the United States and Western countries, wrote China state-run Global Times’ editor-in-chief Hu Xijin. The Chinese journalist added that there was no way for serious virus data faking to happen in China today, especially for something that has drawn so much attention. The country managed to limit the death toll in Hubei, where the Covid-19 first emerged, by sending medical equipment and workers there from other parts of China. Xijin questions on his account on social media platform Weibo as to what departments in China would be deployed to fake the country’s casualty data. Just to get the total number, many departments were involved. “The risk of screwing up could be very high,” he wrote.

China is not the only country suspected of its Covid-19 public reporting. Indonesia, Russia, and Iran reports were also questioned. Western officials also questioned North Korea since it has not reported a single case of the infectious disease. Egypt and Saudi Arabia may similarly be playing down the actual Covid-19 cases.

The United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo urged other nations to be transparent with their reports and do their best to share such information as the data will “set matters.” Having the actual data will help in the development of public health measures and medical therapies to combat the coronavirus. Lives will be saved, depending on the ability to have information and confidence about what transpired.



Total confirmed deaths: China, US, and world

Scientific online publication Our World in Data compared the total number of confirmed deaths due to Covid-19 of China, the US, and the world at large. Challenges in the attribution of the cause of death and limited Covid-19 cases, however, mean that the confirmed deaths may not be an accurate reflection of the true number. On January 21, China reported six deaths, the only casualties related to the coronavirus. By April 1, China reported 3,310 deaths, contributing to the 41,887 coronavirus deaths recorded worldwide.

Countries with the highest death toll due to Covid-19 per million people as of April 1, 2020 are Italy (205.58 deaths per million), Spain (175.15), France (53.97), Switzerland (43.1), Luxembourg (36.74), Iran (34.5), and United Kingdom (26.35). Countries with the lowest deaths, on the other hand, include Cameroon (0.3), South Africa (0.08), Sudan (0.05), India (0.03), and Myanmar (0.02).

The prevalence, which is a measure of the burden of the disease in a population at a particular time and in a given location, is among the best fundamental measures in epidemiology.

Having an accurate and official count of the disease matters to better understand and identify the causes of the disease, then find out how to improve human health and prevent disease. It will also allow leaders and those in the medical industry to plan appropriately for people’s health care needs.