That’s compared to more than 116,000 cases in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (At around 1.4 billion people, China’s population dwarfs the U.S.’ nearly 330 million.)
The Chinese government has been widely accused of downplaying the virus when it first came out of Wuhan in late 2019, and of trying to hide its origin and suppress its numbers. But is the country still lying?
Stanley Rosen, a University of Southern California professor who specializes in Chinese politics, told Fox News in an email that any inaccuracies would likely be coming from local officials who report to the central government.
“I would think that even if the statistics are not completely accurate, they do suggest that China is doing a reasonably good job of controlling further outbreaks,” he said.
Rosen added that China doesn’t include asymptomatic cases as confirmed cases, but even those numbers have been very low.
“China is very opaque when it comes to transparency, so it’s always hard to know how accurate their reported statistical data is, and there seems to be little question that when COVID first broke out in Wuhan, and for a considerable time afterwards, the number of deaths from COVID was seriously underreported,” he said.
Dr. Stephen E. Hawes, the chair of the University of Washington’s epidemiology department, said that China was “rightfully criticized for withholding information globally” early on in the pandemic “and also for suppressing information and being slow to respond to the outbreak within China.”
“Throughout most of the pandemic, reported numbers from China have included only confirmed cases, as opposed to a more broad case definition including clinically diagnosed (but not laboratory confirmed) cases; this also would lead to an undercounting and underreporting of cases,” he added in an email to Fox News.
As early as a year ago the CIA reportedly warned the White House that the Communist Party’s official virus numbers couldn’t be trusted, which the intelligence agency said had been massively underreported.
James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation wrote in a Fox News op-ed in December that China’s “addiction to lying in the face of clear-cut facts is a worrisome indicator that the Beijing we must deal with now and into the future is even more duplicitous and aggressive than the Beijing of the past.”
He added the country is “still lying, trying to pin the origin of COVID-19 seemingly anywhere other than Wuhan Province in their own country,” having suggested disingenuously it might have started in the U.S., India or Italy.
Since the outbreak became worldwide news, the Chinese government has been willing to take draconian measures to avoid spreading the virus such as restricting travel, forcing residents to stay in their homes and conducting mandatory mass testing – steps far more drastic than the U.S. would be willing to impose on Americans.
This month, the government reportedly forced more than 22 million residents near Beijing and a couple of other cities farther south to stay in their homes to prevent the spread after small outbreaks.
“[T]hey have been pretty draconian in ordering extensive testing and local lockdowns when any cases are detected, and they’re limiting travel during the Chinese New Year holiday this month, so it’s clear they’re taking the issue much more seriously,” Rosen further told Fox News of the country’s now more forceful efforts to stamp out the virus as compared to a year ago.
Hawes said that CHina’s consistently low numbers “suggest that China has had an effective response to the pandemic…The country was already the world’s largest producer of personal protective equipment such as masks, and compliance to policies was very high. Many health experts consider China a success story of coronavirus pandemic control, in part due to the centralized epidemic response system already in place.”
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, told CNBC in an interview last fall that he believed the accuracy of the numbers coming out of China and other countries like Japan, South Korea, Australia and Thailand.
“The entire Pacific Rim has less than 1,000 infections a day,” Gottlieb said in October. “People want to say China is lying about the two dozen cases that they’re reporting a day, which I don’t believe they are [lying]. Certainly, the entire Pacific Rim isn’t in on the conspiracy. It isn’t inevitable that we have a raging epidemic.”
For example, Australia reported just 6 new cases Tuesday, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Just in Japan’s capital Tokyo, however, officials reported more than 670 new cases Wednesday (more than 2,600 new cases in the whole country) and Thailand, with a population of 69 million, reported more than 800 cases. While Japan and Thailand’s case numbers are still smaller than the U.S., they’re much higher than China, while has the largest population of any country.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told MSNBC Monday that China is “falling far short of the mark when it comes to providing the information necessary to the international community, making sure that experts have access to China.”
He called the lack of transparency a “profound problem” that is likely to continue.
World Health Organization investigators who visited a research center in Wuhan Wednesday that has been the subject of speculation about the origins of the virus have also given little information about what they saw there.
Reporters followed the WHO team to the high-security facility, but as with past visits, there was little direct access to team members, who have given scant details of their discussions and visits thus far.
Uniformed and plainclothes security guards stood watch along the facility’s gated front entrance, but there was no sign of the protective suits team members had donned Tuesday during a visit to an animal disease research center. It wasn’t clear what protective gear was worn inside the institute.
The team left after around three hours without speaking to waiting journalists.
Their visit followed months of negotiations as China seeks to retain tight control over information about the outbreak and the investigation into its origins, in what some have seen as an attempt to avoid blame for any missteps in its early response.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.