Officials in Wuhan, where the virus was first reported late last year, on Friday added 1,290 coronavirus deaths to the city’s toll. They also added 325 confirmed cases to the city tally.
Officials explained that the deaths had initially gone uncounted because in the early stages of the pandemic some people died at home, overwhelmed medics were focused on treating cases rather than reporting deaths and due to a delay in collecting figures from various government and private organizations.
They added that the figures had been revised to show “accountability to history, to the people and the victims,” as well as to ensure “open and transparent disclosure of information and data accuracy.”
Experts have also previously raised the alarm over China’s approach to measuring asymptomatic cases. Some patients who tested positive for the virus but did not show symptoms were not included in official tallies, making comparing China’s figures to the rest of the world difficult.
The latest change to the figures out of Wuhan could renew skepticism over China’s numbers, as the country faces intense criticism from Washington and other countries over its alleged lack of transparency regarding the origin of the virus and its official response in the early weeks.
The internal documents show that even as officials were downplaying the potential risk of the virus in public, a top Chinese health adviser warned it was “the most severe challenge since SARS in 2003 and is likely to develop into a major public health event.”
Chinese government spokespeople have consistently denied accusations the government covered up key information or was overly slow in responding to the initial outbreak.