Beijing, April 17: China on Friday denied covering up the extent of its coronavirus outbreak and accused the US of attempting to divert the public attention by insinuating that the virus originated from a virology laboratory in Wuhan.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian’s comments came as China’s coronavirus death toll mounted to 4,632 after it revised the fatality figures by 50 per cent in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.
“I want to emphasise that the revision of the data regarding infectious disease is an internationally accepted practice,” Zhao told a media briefing, defending the sharply upward revision of figures amid allegations of under-reporting of casualties of coronavirus cases and casualties by China in Wuhan.
He said in the early stage of the outbreak there were some late reports, omissions, and inaccurate information.
He said this can be explained by the insufficient capacity of admissions and treatment of patients in hospitals, failure of some medical institutions to connect with disease prevention and control information systems in a timely manner, overload of hospitals and pre-occupation of medical staff with the treatment of patients.
“But there has never been any concealment, and we’ll never allow any concealment,” Zhao said.
The revision of figures came amid sharp criticism of China by the US and other nations for its alleged under-reporting of the coronavirus cases and cover-up of the origin of the viral strain, which emerged in Wuhan in December last, reportedly from the local Huanan seafood market.
Responding to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement that the US will probe whether the virus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is only a few miles away from the seafood market, Zhao said a few days ago, some people in the US accused China of failing to inform their country of the epidemic situation in a timely manner.
“The same people are now hyping up the issue of the source of the virus, insinuating that the virus originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” he said.
“A discerning person will understand at a glance that the purpose is to create confusion, divert public attention, and shirk their responsibility,” he said.
“I’ll repeat what we said already many times. Tracing the source of the virus is a serious scientific issue. We need to listen to science and respect scientific and professional opinions.
Zhao on Thursday said the source of the virus is a matter of science.
“I would like to remind you that the World Health Organisation has repeatedly stated that there is no evidence showing the virus was made in a lab. Many renowned medical specialists in the world have also debunked the “lab leakage” theory as not science-based at all,” he said.
Explaining the reason for the revision figures, the Wuhan municipality said it was done to ensure that the information on the city’s Covid-19 epidemic is open and transparent, and that the data are accurate.
Besides, during the height of their treating efforts, hospitals were operating beyond their capacities and medical staff were preoccupied with saving and treating patients, resulting in belated, missed and mistaken reporting, it said.
Also, due to a rapid increase of designated hospitals for treating Covid-19 patients a few medical institutions were not linked to the epidemic information network and failed to report their data in time.
“What lies behind the epidemic data are the lives and health of the general public, as well as the credibility of the government,” the official Xinhua news agency quoted an official as saying. (PTI)