China raises COVID-19 death toll in Wuhan by 50%

Image: Xinhua News Agency (March, 2020)

China, on Friday revised the death toll attributed to COVID-19 in Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus orignated last year, by 50%. 1,290 people who died of the coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan, or half the total, were not counted in death tolls because of lapses, state media said.

The revision follows widespread speculation that Wuhan’s death toll was significantly higher than reported. Rumours of more victims were fuelled for weeks by pictures of long queues of family members waiting to collect ashes of cremated relatives and reports of thousands of urns stacked at a funeral home waiting to be filled. China, however dismissed claims of any kind of cover-up.

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Friday that while there might have been data collection flaws earlier during the outbreak, China has “a responsibility to history, to the people and to the deceased” to ensure numbers are accurate.

“Medical workers at some facilities might have been preoccupied with saving lives and there existed delayed reporting, underreporting or misreporting, but there has never been any cover-up and we do not allow cover-ups,” he said.

Reflecting the additional deaths in Wuhan, China revised its national death toll later on Friday up to 4,632.