Leaked documents show China’s mishandling of pandemic during early stages

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A number of cases was reported across China. The count in one province was more than double.

New documents have revealed that China mishandled and underreported coronavirus cases there at the beginning of the pandemic. 

The data shows that on Feb. 10, when China reported just under 2,500 new cases of COVID-19 across the entire country, the number of diagnoses in just one province were more than double that figure. 

In this April photo, commuters in Beijing, China wear protective masks as they exit a train at a subway station during Monday rush hour. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Hubei province, a center of the virus, which originated in Wuhan, also underreported its death tolls. On March 7, it reported a cumulative toll of less than 3,000, but the actual number was near 3,500. 

CNN report, The Wuhan Files, notes that Chinese officials “gave the world more optimistic data than they had access to internally.” China’s early warning system experienced several failures due to underfunding, understaffing and poor morale. 

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Further, the country took an average of 23 days to return a positive diagnosis in a COVID-19 patient, which allowed for more spread. 

The report also revealed a “large and previously undisclosed outbreak of influenza” occurred in Hubei province in December, months before the virus reached a global scale. 

China had previously claimed it was being open and transparent. 

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“While making an all-out effort to contain the virus, China has also acted with a keen sense of responsibility to humanity, its people, posterity and the international community,” according to “Fighting COVID-19: China in Action,” a June white paper from the Chinese State Council. “It has provided information on COVID-19 in a thoroughly professional and efficient way. It has released authoritative and detailed information as early as possible on a regular basis, thus effectively responding to public concern and building public consensus.” 

The exclusive CNN reporting notes its staffers reached out to representatives from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Health Commission for comments on the leaked documents, but they received no response. 

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Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, said it is clear that China made mistakes that had “global consequences.” 

However, Huang contended that even full transparency from Chinese officials “would not stop the Trump administration downplaying the seriousness of it. It would probably not have stopped this developing into a pandemic.” 

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