President Donald Trump has blasted China‘s official coronavirus death statistics as ‘impossible’ with Dr Deborah Birx concurring that Beijing failed its ‘moral obligation’ for transparency in the pandemic.
At a White House briefing on Saturday, Dr Birx was presenting a chart with coronavirus mortality rates by country when Trump interjected, saying ‘does anybody really believe this number?’
Trump pointed at China at the bottom of the bar chart, showing a mortality rate of 0.33 per 100,000 population, but marked with an asterisk to indicate the unreliability of the data.
China’s rate is orders of magnitude below other countries, including the U.S. with 11.24 deaths per 100,000 people. Belgium topped the chart at a horrifying 45.2.
Birx, the administration’s coronavirus response coordinator, immediately chimed in to back up Trump’s skepticism, saying: ‘I put China on there so basically you can see how unrealistic this would be.’
Dr Birx was presenting a chart with coronavirus mortality rates by country when Trump interjected, saying ‘does anybody really believe this number?’ The US bar is seen in blue
China’s mortality rate was marked with an asterisk to indicate the unreliability of the data
Birx immediately chimed in to back up Trump’s skepticism, saying: ‘I put China on there so basically you can see how unrealistic this would be.’
‘When highly developed healthcare delivery systems of the United Kindom and Belgium and France and Spain, with doctors and nurses and equipment, have case fatality rates in the 20s and up to 45 — and Belgium has an extraordinarily competent healthcare delivery system, and then china at 0.33 you realize that these numbers…’ Birx said, trailing off.
‘And this includes the doubled numbers out of Wuhan,’ she added.
On Friday, the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the pandemic began, raised its number of COVID-19 fatalities by 1,290.
State media claimed the undercount had been due to the insufficient admission capabilities at overwhelmed medical facilities at the peak of the outbreak.
Wuhan´s revised official death toll of 3,869 is the most in China. Numbers of total cases in the city of 11 million were also raised by 325 to 50,333, accounting for about two-thirds of China´s total 82,367 announced cases.
Questions have long swirled around the accuracy of China´s case reporting, with Wuhan in particular going several days in January without reporting new cases or deaths.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping is seen in a file photo. Questions have long swirled around the accuracy of China´s case reporting
That has led to accusations that Chinese officials were seeking to minimize the impact of the outbreak and wasting opportunities to bring it under control in a shorter time.
Birx, without calling out China by name, blasted the country’s lack of transparency in the crisis.
‘This is why the reporting is so important,’ she said at the briefing. ‘That alert came from our European allies on the front line. And that is why in a pandemic, with a new disease, it’s really critical to have that level of transparency because it changes how we work as a nation.’
She credited data from Europe, saying ‘it allowed us, on March 15, to make an alert out there about vulnerable individuals.’
‘That information came from our European allies who were in the midst of a battle themselves,’ she said.
Belgium has seen a horrifying mortality rate of 45.2 per 100,000 population. Pictured: Mortuary workers load in a hearse the coffin of a person who died of coronavirus after his funeral, in Charleroi, Belgium on Saturday
‘So there is never an excuse to not share information. When you are the first country to have an outbreak, you really have a moral obligation to not only talk about it, but provide that information that’s critical to the rest of the world to respond to this credibly,’ Birx said.
‘I really want to thank our European colleagues who really worked hard to get us that information even in the midst of their own crisis,’ she added.
Trump added later in the briefing of the Chinese mortality data: ‘The number is impossible. It’s an impossible number to hit.’
Trump was asked if he believed the virus accidentally escaped from a lab in Wuhan that was known to be conducting experiments on coronaviruses and had been criticized for sloppy safety procedures.
‘Well they’ve said they’re doing an investigation, so let’s see what happens with that investigation. But we’re doing investigations also,’ he said.