CHINA lied to the world about the killer coronavirus and hid its true infection rate to 'protect' its image, damning leaked files reveal.
The explosive secret data also shows a large and previously undisclosed flu outbreak in Hubei province – where the pandemic’s initial epicentre of Wuhan is located.
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CNN said it had investigated the treasure trove of information, contained in a 117-page report marked "internal document, please keep confidential."
The leaked files expose China’s botched coronavirus response, including how Beijing downplayed data, taking weeks to diagnose new cases.
The broadcaster found:
- China's system took on average 23 days to diagnose confirmed patients.
- Testing failures meant most of those swabbed for Covid received negative results until January 10.
- Underfunding, understaffing, poor morale and bureaucratic red tape hindered China's early warning system.
"It was clear they did make mistakes, and not just mistakes that happen when you're dealing with a novel virus – also bureaucratic and politically-motivated errors in how they handled it," said Yanzhong Huang.
The senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, who has written extensively on public health in China told CNN: "These had global consequences."
China infamously delayed releasing coronavirus information, frustrating WHO throughout the pandemic which has so far resulted in nearly 1.5million deaths.
The cover-up is laid bare in the secret files, passed on by a concerned whistleblower.
CNN says that it shows that local health bosses in Hubei, where the virus was first detected, listed a total of 5,918 newly detected Covid cases on February 10.
That figure – never publicly released – is more than twice the official public number of confirmed cases admitted by China.
Beijing has recently blamed the start of Covid on India, Spain, and Italy.
In May, China's ambassador to the UK claimed his country was a "victim" of the coronavirus pandemic – and denied claims of a cover-up.
But, a large and previously undisclosed outbreak of influenza hit Hubei province in early December, the documents show.
This coincides with the first known patient showing symptoms of Covid in Hubei's provincial capital of Wuhan on December 1, 2019.
The influenza "epidemic" caused flu cases to rocket 20 times the level recorded the previous year, the documents say.
Apart from hitting Wuhan, the influenza outbreak made a significant impact on the neighbouring cities of Yichang and Xianning.
CNN says: "It remains unclear what impact or connection the influenza spike had on the Covid-19 outbreak."
The files were presented to the broadcaster by an anonymous whistleblower.
The person said they worked inside the Chinese healthcare system, and wanted to expose the truth that had been censored.
They also wanted to honour colleagues who had previously spoken out.
The information has been verified by six independent experts who examined the veracity of their content on behalf of CNN, the broadcaster added.
Throughout January, WHO publicly praised China for what it called a speedy response to the new coronavirus.
It repeatedly thanked the Chinese government for sharing the genetic map of the virus “immediately,” and said its work and commitment to transparency were “very impressive, and beyond words.”
Despite the plaudits, China in fact sat on releasing the genetic map, or genome, of the virus for more than a week after three different government labs had fully decoded the information, said the Associated Press.
Chinese government labs only released the genome after another lab published it ahead of authorities on a virologist website on January 11.
China stalled for at least two weeks more on providing WHO with detailed data on patients and cases at a time when the outbreak arguably might have been dramatically slowed.
This revelation prompted US President Donald Trump to blast WHO for allegedly colluding with China to hide the extent of the coronavirus crisis.
He cut ties with the organisation.
But, WHO was kept in the dark as China gave it the minimal information required by law, AP says.
Also, China deliberately didn’t warn public of the looming pandemic for six key days.
Top Chinese officials secretly determined they were likely facing a pandemic from a new virus, AP found.
That delay from January 14 to January 20 coincided with millions travellingfor Lunar New Year celebrations.
But, by January 20, "more than 3,000 people had been infected during almost a week of public silence", the AP found.
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