China Says Sudden Jump in Wuhan Coronavirus Death Toll Is Due to Statistical Verification, Not Cover Up

A senior Chinese official has defended a sudden increase in the coronavirus death toll in the central city of Wuhan, putting the spike down to standard statistical analysis and once again denying any suggestion of a cover-up.

In his daily briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told journalists Friday that the Chinese government does not allow cover-ups, Reuters reported.

Wuhan city—where the COVID-19 coronavirus originated before spreading across the world to become a pandemic—revised its death toll up 50 percent on Friday, according to the state-run CCTV news channel.

Officials said 1,290 more people than previously thought had died from the virus, representing a 50 percent increase in the toll.

The state Xinhua News Agency quoted an unidentified official within Wuhan's epidemic and prevention and control headquarters as saying that the early stages of the outbreak saw "insufficiency in admission and treatment capability."

As a result, the official said, "a few medical institutions failed to connect with the disease prevention and control system in time, while hospitals were overloaded and medics were overwhelmed with patients." This led to "belated, missed and mistaken reporting occurred," the official explained.

China, coronavirus, Wuhan, death toll, cover up
A man wears a protective mask as he looks at his mobile phone in Tiananmen Square on April 15, 2020 in Beijing, China. Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images/Getty

The number of cases confirmed in the city is now 50,333, with a total of 3,869 deaths. On Friday, Wuhan also reported 325 new cases of coronavirus infection. Nationwide, China has reported 83,756 infections and 4,636 deaths according to Johns Hopkins University.

Zhao said Friday that the higher Wuhan death toll was the result of a statistical verification, undertaken to ensure accuracy and done in accordance with common international practice, Reuters reported.

Other nations have been skeptical of the numbers of coronavirus deaths and infections reported by the totalitarian Chinese government. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been two of the loudest critical voices, accusing Beijing of initially hiding the severity of the outbreak and since then concealing information about its origin and spread.

A U.S. intelligence report sent to the White House last month suggested that Chinese officials were not being honest about how many people had died in Wuhan, which was quarantined for 2 months to try and stop the virus spreading.

On Thursday, Pompeo told Yang Jiechi—China's top diplomat—that it was important to offer "full transparency" over China's coronavirus outbreak.

China, meanwhile, has rejected U.S. allegations of wrongdoing, framing the complaints as an attempt to shift attention from Trump's mishandling of the crisis. The U.S. now has the highest number of infections of deaths of any nation—662,045 and 28,998, respectively, according to Johns Hopkins University. The chart below from Statista show the spread of COVID-19 across the globe.

statista global chart coronavirus
The number of COVID-18 cases across the globe. Statista

Both sides have peddled conspiracy theories about the pandemic. In March, Zhao suggested that the U.S. Army may have been behind the Wuhan outbreak. Both Trump and Pompeo have alluded to a theory that the virus escaped a research lab in Wuhan. There is currently no evidence for either assertion.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.

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