Documents reveal Chinese authorities mismanaged pandemic during the early stages
Documents leaked from China show that the country during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic reported fewer cases than the real ones, even less than half, as it underestimated the severity of the virus and failed to quickly detect new infections, according to an exclusive CNN report.
A whistleblower working in the Chinese health system leaked to CNN 117 pages of internal documents from the Regional Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the Chinese province of Hubei, the city from which the Covid-19 pandemic is believed to have started.
These documents, which CNN gave for confirmation to six experts, show that the Chinese Communist Party was hiding vital information about the coronavirus from the October 2019 to April 2020, a critical period during which SARS-CoV-2 spread from China around the world and caused the pandemic.
China has repeatedly rejected complaints from the US and other countries that it deliberately withheld information about the coronavirus.
CNN pointed out that these documents do not show deliberate concealment of information, but show that there were large discrepancies between what officials believed and what they announced to the public.
On February 10, Chinese officials announced 2,478 new cases of Covid-19, bringing the total number of cases worldwide to more than 40,000. But a document marked “internal document, please maintain confidentiality”, the CDC of Hubei recorded 5,918 new cases, with 2,345 “confirmed cases”, 1,772 ‘clinically diagnosed cases’ and 1,796 ‘suspicious cases’.
A report from early March states that the average time between the onset of symptoms until the diagnosis is 23.3 days. Experts told CNN that this would make it difficult for experts to deal with the spread of the virus.
The documents also reveal that at the end of 2019, a flu epidemic broke out in Hubei, with its cases being 20 times higher than the previous year. This epidemic affected Wuhan, but more so the cities of Yichang and Xiang.
CNN notes that, according to the documents, the flu epidemic and the coronavirus outbreak are not linked, but the extent of the flu epidemic had not previously been reported. Experts told CNN that the flu epidemic is likely to have made it difficult for Chinese authorities to detect and pay attention to new viruses.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry, the National Health Commission and the Hubei Health Commission have not commented on CNN’s revelations, although they have been asked.
“It was clear that they made mistakes – and not just mistakes made while dealing with a novel virus – but also bureaucratic and politically motivated mistakes in dealing with it,” said Yangzong Huang of the Council on Foreign Affairs.
“These had global ramifications. You can never guarantee 100% transparency. It’s not just a deliberate cover-up, but you are also being constrained by technology and other problems with a novel virus,” he added.