UK pulls China from coronavirus death toll comparison amid claims of cover up


The UK has removed China from a coronavirus chart that compares countries by death toll.

It comes amid claims that Beijing has under-reported confirmed infections and fatalities, and more evidence that it attempted to cover up the outbreak in the initial stages.

The charts shared by the Government on Friday and Saturday show a global death comparison using deaths in the UK, US, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Sweden and South Korea.

Previous charts included China, where the outbreak began late last year, but doubts have been cast on the death figures announced by Beijing.

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A global death comparison released at Saturday’s briefing

Last week, the city of Wuhan revised its death toll upwards by 50 per cent as the Chinese government again denied that it had covered up its handling of the outbreak.

The authorities in Wuhan added 1,290 deaths to its toll, taking it to 3,869 from 2,579, and blamed incorrect or delayed reporting.

But observers have questioned whether the death toll is far higher.

The Covid-19 outbreak started in the city of 11million and was thought to have originated at a wildlife market, which has been linked to a cluster of early cases.

Police and officials in China silenced a number of doctors who raised the alarm in the initial stages before the rest of the world knew what was happening.

A number of experts, including scientists who were investigating the origin of the new strain of coronavirus, were also muzzled.

China has been accused of hiding the findings of an expert known as “Bat Woman” after she quickly identified the genetic make-up of the new strain that has infected millions.

Wuhan-based virologist Shi Zhengli is one of the world’s top researchers on coronaviruses and has discovered dozens of deadly SARS-like viruses in bat caves.

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Chinese whistleblower Dr Li Wenliang died after contracting coronavirus

She studied samples taken from some of the first people to become infected with the new and then-mysterious respiratory illness in China in December and found it was similar to SARS.

It was identified as a novel coronavirus and within three days she completed its gene sequencing, finding that it was 96 per cent identical to a virus found in horseshoe bats in Yunnan.

But she was “muzzled” and her team was ordered not to reveal any information about the new disease, which was already spreading rapidly as China kept the world in the dark.

The information about gene sequencing wasn’t made public until a week later.

Medical staff transport a patient to a hospital in Wuhan

The day that the genetic information was mapped, Yanyi Wang, director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, ordered staff not to reveal any information about the disease, it is claimed.

After local doctors were detained for warning locals about the virus, the director claimed “inappropriate and inaccurate information” was causing “general panic”.

She ordered staff not to post any information on social media or speak to the media.

Just over a week later, a team in Shanghai published a sequence on an open access platform after studying samples from an infected patient.

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Coronavirus outbreak

Their laboratory was shut for “rectification” two days later.

One of the earliest Covid-19 cases emerged in mid-December when a patient, who worked at the wildlife market in Wuhan that became the early epicentre of the outbreak, was hospitalised with a double lung infection in the city in central China.

The usual treatment for flu-like illness failed to work and new cases soon emerged.

On December 27, Wuhan health officials were told that the illness was being caused by a new coronavirus.

Wuhan-based virologist Shi Zhengli is one of the world’s top researchers on coronaviruses

Three days later, at least two doctors from Wuhan – Li Wenliang and Ai Fen – shared information about the new virus on the social network WeChat.

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Li, a whistleblower who was warned by police to stop “making false comments”, died in February after contracting the virus.

Ai is missing after giving media interviews criticising China’s censorship and hospital authorities for suppressing early warnings of the outbreak.

She told the Chinese magazine, Renwu, or People, that she was reprimanded after alerting her bosses and colleagues of the new virus in December.

On 30 December, she received the laboratory results of one case which stated: “SARS coronavirus”.

The next day, Wuhan officials confirmed almost 30 cases, shut down the wildlife market and notified the World Health Organisation’s local office about the mysterious illness.

New cases continued to emerge and the outbreak was spreading outside of China, but for a week in January health officials in Wuhan insisted they had not received any new patients.

During that time, the first known case outside of China was detected in Thailand and a case was reported in the US as infected people left Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province to travel across the country and around the world.

Medics in protective gear in Wuhan, where the virus was first detected

Chinese authorities insisted they hadn’t seen any “clear evidence” that the virus could be spread from human to human.

By then they had lost control and hospitals were becoming overwhelmed by the rising number of infected patients.

Within days Dr Zhong Nanshan, the country’s top respiratory expert and the face of its containment effort, revealed that human transmission was taking place.

Wuhan and several other cities struggling to contain the virus went into lockdown on January 23, days before the Lunar New Year holiday, but by then millions of people had left without being screened.

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That day, Shi Zhengli and her research team published their data identifying the illness on a scientific portal before it was published in February by the medical journal Nature.

In the weeks that followed the lockdown in Wuhan, the virus rapidly spread to and within other countries due to imported cases and community transmission.

The coronavirus lockdown is a worrying time for millions across the UK.

But it’s also bringing out the best in people who are selflessly giving their time each day to help those most in need.

Our Mirror Coronavirus Heroes series wants to recognise all of those helping the most vulnerable during the crisis.

Whether it’s a local business going the extra mile for the community or a teenager helping an elderly neighbour, we want to hear about it.

You can email your stories of Mirror Coronavirus Heroes to webnews@mirror.co.uk.

China is still censoring academic research into the origins of the new strain of coronavirus, it is reported.

The authorities are said to have placed new restrictions on the publication of research that could shed new light on how it was passed from an animal to a human.

All academic papers are being given extra vetting before being submitted for publication.

Studies must be approved by the central government before they are shared with the rest of the world, according to since-deleted online posts by two Chinese universities.

China, meanwhile, is dropping a requirement that a number of key virus care products get domestic regulatory approval before export, as long as they are approved in the importing countries, the commerce ministry said.

Beijing had been stipulating such extra approval at home since the end of March after several European countries complained that Chinese-made test kits were inaccurate, in effect hampering many firms’ efforts to supply global efforts against the coronavirus pandemic.

The new ruling applies to products such as coronavirus tests, medical masks, protective suits, infrared thermometers and ventilators.

Many countries around the world have been scrambling to buy or make enough personal protective equipment for medical staff and care workers at risk of infection, and also tests to trace contagion and identify people who can leave quarantine.





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