World C.I.A. Hunts for Authentic Virus Totals in China, Dismissing Government Tallies

02:25  03 april  2020
02:25  03 april  2020 Source:   nytimes.com

Virus response bungled by China, Trump

  Virus response bungled by China, Trump The Chinese government has not been honest with the rest of the world regarding the novel coronavirus. Closer to home, neither has President Trump.At about the same time, and for weeks after, the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies began sending the White House profoundly unsettling messages: The Chinese were lying about the virus — the number of diagnosed cases and deaths; the severity of the disease itself; the velocity of the contagion.

No complete picture of the virus exists anywhere because of factors beyond government But since January, White House officials have come to view with skepticism the Chinese tallies in particular and Bloomberg News first reported the C . I . A .’s assessment that China was underreporting its virus

A total of more than 700,000 people who had been in close contact with suspected cases had been traced so far in China , it said. Although the tally of imported cases, at 806, is just a small fraction of overall cases, authorities fearing a second wave of infection have barred entry to most foreigners and

WASHINGTON — The C.I.A. has been warning the White House since at least early February that China has vastly understated its coronavirus infections and that its count could not be relied upon as the United States compiles predictive models to fight the virus, according to current and former intelligence officials.

China has reported about six coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, well below the rates in Italy, Spain, the United States and elsewhere. © CHINATOPIX, via Associated Press China has reported about six coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, well below the rates in Italy, Spain, the United States and elsewhere.

The intelligence briefings in recent weeks, based at least in part on information from C.I.A. assets in China, played an important role in President Trump’s negotiation on Thursday of an apparent détente with President Xi Jinping of China. Since then, both countries have ratcheted back criticism of each other.

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The virus is mainly spread during close contact and by respiratory droplets produced when people Semi-log graph showing the change in total (cumulative) count from the first reported date for the However, a large study in China compared chest CT results to PCR and demonstrated that though

Though China led the world in infections from December, when the outbreak erupted in the city of Wuhan, till now, the sweeping quarantine As restrictions grow tighter across American communities, China has gradually lifted its own, allowing 60 million residents in Hubei province – Covid-19’s first

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Obtaining a more accurate count of the Chinese rate of infection and deaths from the virus has worldwide public health implications at a time of grave uncertainty over the virus, its speed of transmission and other fundamental questions. For American officials, the totals are critical to getting a better understanding of how Covid-19 will affect the United States in the months to come and of the effectiveness of countermeasures like social distancing, according to American intelligence agencies and White House officials.

So far, to the frustration of both the White House and the intelligence community, the agencies have been unable to glean more accurate numbers through their collection efforts.

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China ’s experience combating the virus has also highlighted the risk of family transmission if hospitals run out of beds and testing kits, as they did in Wuhan On Thursday, in a rare public rebuke of the government , disgruntled people in a residential community in Wuhan heckled high-level officials as

The Chinese government has faced pressure to release more information about the virus . In 2002, after SARS, a dangerous respiratory disease, first broke out, the Chinese Health officials in China have said that symptoms of the new illness include high fever, difficulty breathing and lung lesions.

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But American intelligence agencies have concluded that the Chinese government itself does not know the extent of the virus and is as blind as the rest of the world. Midlevel bureaucrats in the city of Wuhan, where the virus originated, and elsewhere in China have been lying about infection rates, testing and death counts, fearful that if they report numbers that are too high they will be punished, lose their position or worse, current and former intelligence officials said.

Bureaucratic misreporting is a chronic problem for any government, but it has grown worse in China as the Communist leadership has taken a more authoritarian turn in recent years under Mr. Xi.

No complete picture of the virus exists anywhere because of factors beyond government suppression, including testing shortages, varying measurement standards and asymptomatic infections that could account for up to one in four coronavirus cases. Iran has obfuscated its struggles with the pandemic. Italy’s death count of more than 13,000, the most worldwide, leaves out people who died outside hospitals. Testing in the United States lags behind other countries.

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China ’s leader, Xi Jinping, has faced sharp criticism for the government ’s initial handling of the outbreak, even at home. The coronavirus, according to all evidence, emanated from Wuhan, China , in late December. Scientists have not yet identified a “patient zero” or a precise source of the virus

Volunteers wait to check temperatures at the entrance of a street in Beijing, on Wednesday.Credit Giulia Marchi for The New York Times.

But since January, White House officials have come to view with skepticism the Chinese tallies in particular and asked the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies to prioritize collection of information on China.

Bloomberg News first reported the C.I.A.’s assessment that China was underreporting its virus diagnoses and deaths. Officials played down a revelation about an intelligence report sent last week to the White House, saying that the C.I.A. has for several weeks told White House officials not to trust the numbers that Beijing was handing to the World Health Organization.

The American intelligence about understated numbers predates recent reporting in the Chinese news media that the death count in Wuhan could be 5,000 or more, double the official number. Intelligence officers have not verified the press reports and have left them out of their reports, according to people briefed on their work.

American officials cautioned that even with their own sourcing, many of the intelligence agencies’ warnings to the White House since the beginning of the outbreak have hewed relatively closely to reports from journalists, who have been aggressively reporting on the coronavirus outbreak in China and the Chinese government’s efforts to suppress reporting about its spread.

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Chinese authorities also built two dedicated hospitals in Wuhan in just over 1 week. Health care workers from all over China were sent to the Singapore and Hong Kong may be better examples to follow, Konyndyk says: “There has been a similar degree of rigor and discipline but applied in a much

Zhong Nanshan, the government ’s senior medical adviser, told reporters that as long as countries take the outbreak seriously and are prepared to take firm With the marked slowdown of the spread of the virus in China , more businesses have reopened, with authorities cautiously easing strict containment

China has credited its drastic containment measures — including a lockdown of nearly 60 million people — for a drop in newly reported cases in recent weeks, but many people outside its government have raised concerns that the figures are incomplete.

For example, China has not been reporting the number of asymptomatic cases it is aware of. As many as 25 percent of people who contract the virus may not show signs of it, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said.

Asked about China’s numbers at a news conference on Wednesday, Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser, said the United States was “not in a position” to confirm them. Without acknowledging any classified intelligence reports, he noted that public reporting had called the numbers into question.

“There’s no way to confirm any of those numbers,” Mr. O’Brien said. “There’s lots of public reporting on whether the numbers are too low.”

Officials also said that China’s underreporting of its pandemic totals was unsurprising, saying that official statistics from the country are often lies.

Tensions between Washington and Beijing had been high after the virus spread beyond Wuhan and reached the United States, forcing shutdowns of wide swaths of the economy to control the spread.

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Chinese diplomats have spread disinformation, including false reports that the virus originated from a United States Army lab and other conspiracy theories. Mr. Trump has retaliated by referring to Covid-19 as “the Chinese virus,” and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo derailed an international communiqué in an effort to label the disease as coming from China.

But after the call between Mr. Xi and Mr. Trump last week, an uneasy peace took hold. While the Chinese media has continued to spread conspiracy theories, the most prominent Chinese diplomats have tempered their comments.

Mr. Trump, too, has toned down his harsh language. Asked about intelligence reports that China had misreported the virus’s damage, Mr. Trump suggested he may have discussed the matter with Mr. Xi.

“The numbers seem to be a little bit on the light side, and I’m being nice when I say that, relative to what we witnessed and what was reported, but we discussed that with him,” Mr. Trump said. “Not so much the numbers as what they did and how they’re doing.”

But then Mr. Trump mentioned his trade deal and Chinese spending on American agriculture and tempered his criticism.

“As to whether or not their numbers are accurate,” he said, “I’m not an accountant from China.”

Mark Mazzetti contributed reporting.

WHO responds to Trump's criticism .
Geneva. US President Donald Trump has attacked the World Health Organization head-on. He accused her of failing to fight the corona virus. WHO is now responding to the words. © IDA GULDBAEK ARENTSEN WHO director Hans Kluge. The World Health Organization (WHO) is against criticism from US President Donald Trump and his threat to cut her funds.

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