As long suspected by the global community, leaked documents obtained by CNN unveil China’s intentional downplaying of the devastating coronavirus, suppressing totals of cases and providing false information on the nature of the virus. The 117 pages, provided by a whistleblower who “worked inside the Chinese healthcare system, and were a patriot motivated to expose a truth that had been censored, and honor colleagues who had also spoken out,” reveal a widespread campaign to conceal how serious the virus was and create a mirage of success from the Chinese healthcare system.
On February 10th, Chinese authorities reported 2,478 new confirmed cases, however as proven by the leaked documents, local health authorities in the province of Hubei found a total of 5,918 newly detected cases, more than double the official reporting to the global health community. Dozens of other examples could be found for specific days with total case numbers not accurately reported, with officially reported case totals being significantly lower than what the leaked documents expose the total case numbers to be.
The report found that Chinese officials “were reliant on flawed testing and reporting mechanisms.” As experts told CNN, China’s false belief that the average time “between onset of symptoms to confirmed diagnosis was 23.3 days…significantly hampered steps to both monitor and combat the disease.”
On top of the coronavirus pandemic, the documents also uncovered another health crisis ravaging China, crippling their healthcare and leaving them more vulnerable to the coronavirus. At the same time the coronavirus pandemic began to spread, the province of Hubei simultaneously dealt with a massive influenza outbreak, with case totals reportedly 20 times of the previous years. While present in Wuhan, the neighboring cities of Yichang and Xianning took the brunt of the influenza epidemic. Information regarding the spike of influenza in Hubei has yet to be made public by Chinese officials.
Of course, the global health community has long believed China to have deliberately underreported their total cases. In April, U.S. officials believed the underreporting to be “by at least a factor of 50,” while British officials suspected the underreporting to be “by a factor of 15 to 40 times.” Concurrently in April, Washington Post uncovered evidence that the real death count, at the time, was over 40,000, despite Chinese officials claiming the number to be 4,600.
Without transparency, China left nations poorly prepared by pretending the virus to be much less serious than it is, lulling the world into a false sense of security. Their dishonesty directly caused both slower response times and less drastic measures as nations thought they had more time to prepare and that the Chinese had the situation under control. And case numbers and diagnosis times weren’t the only aspects the Chinese lied about. Until January 20th, Beijing denied human to human transmission to be possible, while at the same time bulk buying medical supplies like masks and gloves, leaving the rest of the world’s supply ill-prepared.
With concrete evidence of their lies, China must be held accountable. Researchers at Columbia University estimated in May 61.6% of deaths and 55% of infections nationwide could have been avoided if restrictions like lockdowns and social distancing had been enacted just a week earlier. Those lives are squarely in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party and they cannot be allowed to not be held responsible.