BEIJING/SHANGHAI – The Chinese city of Wuhan hiked its death toll from the novel coronavirus by 50 percent on Friday, bringing the total to 3,869, state-run TV reported, confirming residents' worst fears amid rising international doubts about Beijing's handling of the outbreak.
The central city where the virus first appeared in humans late last year added another 1,290 victims on top of the 2,579 previously counted as of Thursday, reflecting incorrect reporting, delays and omissions, CCTV reported.
The revisions follow widespread speculation that Wuhan's death toll was significantly higher than reported, rumors fuelled by images of long lines of family members waiting to collect victims' ashes, and reports of thousands of empty urns stacked at a single funeral home.
"In the early stage, due to limited hospital capacity and the shortage of medical staff, a few medical institutions failed to connect with local disease control and prevention systems in a timely manner, which resulted in delayed reporting of confirmed cases and some failures to count patients accurately," state broadcaster CGTN quoted an unidentified Wuhan official as saying.
Suspicion that China has not been transparent about the outbreak has risen in recent days, with U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday expressing skepticism about its previously declared death toll of about 3,000.
"Do you really believe those numbers in this vast country called China, and that they have a certain number of cases and a certain number of deaths; does anybody really believe that?” he said.
Some experts, however, believe fatality numbers in many other countries undercount the real death toll due to people dying from the virus without being tested or presenting at hospitals.
Doctors and government officials in Wuhan have been repeatedly questioned about the accuracy of the death toll by journalists on government-arranged trips.
Some of those officials acknowledged that people may have died without being counted in the chaotic early days of the outbreak, before testing was widely available.
"There couldn’t have been many because that was a very short period," Wang Xinghuan, head of one of two field hospitals built for the outbreak, told reporters in Wuhan on April 12. He stressed that he was not speaking for the government.
Before the revised Wuhan numbers were released, China said it had recorded 26 new mainland cases of the coronavirus on Thursday, down from 46 cases a day earlier, according to the National Health Commission.
That brought total cases on the mainland to 82,367.
Of the new cases, 15 were imported infections, the lowest since March 17. The remaining 11 confirmed cases were locally transmitted infections, down from 12 a day earlier. The number of new asymptomatic cases increased to 66 from 64 a day earlier.
China does not include patients lacking clinical symptoms, such as a cough or fever, in its tally of confirmed cases.
No new deaths were reported.
Your news needs your support
Since the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, The Japan Times has been providing free access to crucial news on the impact of the novel coronavirus as well as practical information about how to cope with the pandemic. Please consider subscribing today so we can continue offering you up-to-date, in-depth news about Japan.