Donald Trump has stoked conspiracy theories about China’s coronavirus deaths, claiming more people have died of COVID-19 in the Asian nation than the United States.
The president was responding to China revising up its official death toll by nearly 1300 fatalities (a doubling of Wuhan’s statistics) which were said to have gone unreported in the early phase of the spread.
Mr Trump, whose country now has the world’s highest COVID-19 cases and has lost more than 34,000 lives, claimed China’s new national figure of 4632 deaths was still not the truth.
“China has just announced a doubling in the number of their deaths from the Invisible Enemy,” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter.
“It is far higher than that and far higher than the U.S., not even close!”
China has just announced a doubling in the number of their deaths from the Invisible Enemy. It is far higher than that and far higher than the U.S., not even close!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2020
The president’s remarks stroke broader suspicions over China’s transparency but Beijing has denied any cover up.
Mr Trump’s accusations came as former Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer called on China to come clean.
Taking another swipe at the Asian super power, Mr Downer said there was still speculation on whether COVID-19 jumped to humans directly in wet markets or escaped from scientific labs.
The broad scientific consensus holds that it originated in bats.
Mr Downer told the Australia-UK Chamber of Commerce that China needed to be more transparent.
“For China this is a slow burn. So far China sending masks and testing kits, some of which apparently don’t work too well, to other countries and saying, ‘Oh look we’re here to help you’,” Mr Downer told a webinar on Friday.
“Come on guys, you started it in the first place, let’s find out how that happened and let’s do our best to make sure that can never happen again.”
“If China resists that I think that they will arouse the wrath of the international community.”
Mr Downer called for China and the World Health Organisation to lead a probe which must involve scientists from the international community, including the West.
“There has to be a proper investigation into how this happened, where it came from, and China will be, I think in time, be put under huge pressure to agree to that investigation,” he said.
Questions have long swirled around the accuracy of China’s case reporting but around the world, similar doubts emerged as governments revised their death tolls or openly questioned the accuracy of them.
Authorities say that almost everywhere, thousands have died with COVID-19 symptoms – many in nursing homes – without being tested for the virus, and have thus gone uncounted.
“We are probably only seeing the tip of the iceberg,” said Barcelona University epidemiologist Antoni Trilla, who heads the Spanish government’s expert panel on the crisis.
“There is a general feeling that the epidemiologists don’t have a clue of what’s going on, that experts know even less and that governments are concealing information, but I don’t think that’s true,” said epidemiologist Hermelinda Vanaclocha.
China’s new figures on Friday raised the official toll in Wuhan by 50 per cent to 3869 deaths.
While China has yet to update its national totals, the revised numbers push up China’s total to 4632 deaths from a previously reported 3342.
The new figure includes the deaths of people at home, mistaken reporting by medical staff and deaths at a few medical institutions that weren’t linked to the epidemic information network, it said.
“As a result, belated, missed and mistaken reporting occurred,” Xinhua quoted an unidentified official from the city’s response headquarters as saying.
A group to review the numbers was established in late March. It looked at data from multiple sources including the city’s hospital and funeral service systems and collected information from fever clinics, temporary hospitals, quarantine sites, prisons and elderly care centres.
The review found 1454 additional deaths, as well as 164 that had been double-counted or misclassified as coronavirus cases, resulting in a net increase of 1290. The number of confirmed cases in the city of 11 million people was revised up slightly to 50,333.