China Is Underreporting Coronavirus Infections and Deaths, Most Britons Believe: Poll

A majority of British adults believe the Chinese government is not reporting the real number of novel coronavirus cases and deaths in the country, a poll commissioned by Newsweek found.

Conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies as part of their research into Global Health and Governance Opinion, the poll found that 69 percent of adults in Great Briton felt China's coronavirus numbers were underreported, with 12 percent of respondents saying they believed the Chinese government was "honestly reporting" the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths within its border. An additional 19 percent said they didn't know.

Redfield & Wilton Strategies pollsters surveyed 2,000 British adults on April 8 for its latest poll. Its margin of error stands at 2.1 percentage points. At the time of writing, China has reported 82,883 cases of COVID-19 along with 3,339 related deaths and 77,678 total recoveries.

By comparison, the United States has reported more than 430,000 cases of the virus, or over four times the amount recorded by Chinese officials. Other countries to have reported more novel coronavirus cases than China, where the first case of the disease was reported, include Spain, Italy, Germany and France.

While a majority of all age groups believed China was covering up the extent of the pandemic's spread in the country, older respondents were more inclined to believe China had underreported its number of coronavirus cases and deaths than younger people.

Three quarters of 35- to 44-year-olds (76 percent) told pollsters that they did not believe China had been honest about coronavirus cases, while just 8 percent felt they had told the truth. By comparison, 57 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds felt China had been dishonest as 27 percent said they trusted figures coming from the country.

Field Hospital in Wuhan, China
Security personnel walks inside a field hospital that had offered beds for coronavirus patients during the height of the crisis in Wuhan on April 9. Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images

But doubt has been cast on the trustworthiness of China's coronavirus numbers in light of its initial attempts to hide the outbreak.

The country first alerted the World Health Organization to a pneumonia of unknown origin in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, on December 31. The warning came after authorities sought to censor a doctor for trying to raise awareness of the new virus.

Four months later, Bloomberg reported a U.S. intelligence report concluded that China had under-reported its number of coronavirus cases and related death toll.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry later criticized the intelligence report. Spokesperson Hua Chunying said U.S. officials were "immoral and inhumane" for trying to "politicize public health issues."

"Slandering, smearing and blaming cannot make up for lost time and more lies will only waste more time and lead to more lives lost," Hua said. "We advise these politicians that, at this moment, they should put the safety of people's lives and health before politics."

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. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • 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.