Angela Merkel has become the latest world leader to hint that China has misled the world over coronavirus.
The German Chancellor urged Beijing to be transparent about the origin and initial transmission of the virus.
‘I believe the more transparent China is about the origin story of the virus, the better it is for everyone in the world in order to learn from it.’
With 4,648 deaths, Germany has suffered almost the exact same number of casualties as China – with 4,636 – but has confirmed almost 62,000 more infections.
Merkel spoke out after French President Emmanuel Macron said there were ‘clearly things that happened that we don’t know about’ when asked about China’s death and infection figures.
Angela Merkel has become the latest world leader to cast doubt on China’s account of its coronavirus crisis, urging Beijing to be ‘more transparent’
Globally, coronavirus has infected more than 2million people. China accounts for some 88,000 cases – far below many countries with smaller populations, causing doubt
Meanwhile Donald Trump and senior Republican figures in the US have also cast doubt over China’s infection data.
Chancellor Merkel spoke out as Germany began relaxing its coronavirus lockdown, allowing small shops and businesses to reopen provided they adhered to social distancing measures.
Shops up to 800 sq metres, as well as car and bicycle dealers and bookstores, are allowed to reopen this week. Schools are set to reopen in two weeks.
However, Merkel called for caution as measures are relaxed – saying the country will be forced back into full lockdown if coronavirus cases begin rising steeply again.
Children also returned to nurseries in Norway on Monday, Denmark has already re-opened some of its schools and Switzerland has set a date of May 11 to do the same.
Germany reported just 110 deaths from the virus on Monday, the fewest since April 6, while new cases also rose by just 1,775, the lowest since mid-March.
China’s official figures paint a picture of astonishing success in slowing the outbreak, but there has been widespread scepticism about their accuracy.
To add to the growing doubts, China this week revised the death toll in Wuhan upwards by more than 50 per cent.
French President Emmanuel Macron has also cast doubt on Beijing’s account, saying it would be ‘naive’ to believe everything the regime has said
In a social media post, the city government added 1,290 deaths to the tally in Wuhan, bringing the toll to 3,869.
Officials claimed that many fatal cases were ‘mistakenly reported’ or missed entirely.
The revision means that China’s total death toll has also increased sharply, because Wuhan was by far the hardest-hit city. The new figure is 4,632 rather than 3,342.
Macron said there could be no comparison between countries where the truth was suppressed and nations where information flowed freely and citizens could criticise their governments.
Frictions between China and France came to light earlier this week when the Chinese ambassador was summoned to the foreign ministry over a provocative article on the embassy website.
The article quoted an unnamed diplomat criticising the West’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The diplomat accused workers at nursing homes of ‘abandoning their posts overnight… and leaving their residents to die of hunger and disease’.
That comment sparked fury across the political spectrum in France, with people leaping to the defence of nursing home workers.
Medical staff in Wuhan are seen removing the body of a person suspected to have died from coronavirus. China has increased the death toll in Wuhan by more than 1,000
Germany reopened small shops on Monday after new cases and deaths both started falling
Foreign ministry officials summoned the Chinese ambassador in Paris over the article, which French lawmakers have called ‘fake news’.
China has since denied criticising France, saying there had been ‘misunderstandings’.
‘China has never issued negative comments on the way France has handled the epidemic,’ foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular press briefing.
‘To the contrary, we share the concerns of France, which today faces the serious challenges brought by this epidemic.’
Britain and the United States have also declined to hail China’s apparent success in containing the outbreak.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said today there would be ‘hard questions about how it came about and how it couldn’t have been stopped earlier’.
Donald Trump’s administration says it does not rule out that the virus could have come from a laboratory researching bats in China.
Trump says the US is ‘doing a very thorough investigation’ after hearing ‘more and more’ rumours of a laboratory accident.
Chinese scientists have said the virus was likely transmitted to humans late last year at a Wuhan ‘wet market’.
Trump also regards the World Health Organization as too close to China, accusing it of initially advising against travel bans out of ‘political correctness’.