China Concealed Extent of Virus Outbreak, U.S. Intelligence Says

China Concealed Extent of Virus Outbreak, U.S. Intelligence Says(Bloomberg) — China has concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in its country, under-reporting both total cases and deaths it’s suffered from the disease, the U.S. intelligence community concluded in a classified report to the White House, according to three U.S. officials.The officials asked not to be identified because the report is secret, and they declined to detail its contents. But the thrust, they said, is that China’s public reporting on cases and deaths is intentionally incomplete. Two of the officials said the report concludes that China’s numbers are fake.The report was received by the White House last week, one of the officials said.The outbreak began in China’s Hubei province in late 2019, but the country has publicly reported only about 82,000 cases and 3,300 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. That compares to more than 189,000 cases and more than 4,000 deaths in the U.S., which has the largest publicly reported outbreak in the world.Communications staff at the White House and the Chinese embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.“The reality is that we could have been better off if China had been more forthcoming,” Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday on CNN. “What appears evident now is that long before the world learned in December that China was dealing with this, and maybe as much as a month earlier than that, that the outbreak was real in China.While China eventually imposed a strict lockdown beyond those of less autocratic nations, there has been considerable skepticism toward China’s reported numbers, both outside and within the country. The Chinese government has repeatedly revised its methodology for counting cases, for weeks excluding people without symptoms entirely, and only on Tuesday added more than 1,500 asymptomatic cases to its total.Stacks of thousands of urns outside funeral homes in Hubei province have driven public doubt in Beijing’s reporting.Republican lawmakers in the U.S. have been particularly harsh about China’s role in the outbreak. Enhancing Beijing’s role in the pandemic could be politically helpful to President Donald Trump, who has sought to shift blame for the U.S. outbreak away from his administration’s delays in achieving widespread testing for the virus and mobilizing greater production of supplies such as face masks and hospital ventilators.“The claim that the United States has more coronavirus deaths than China is false,” Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, said in a statement after Bloomberg News published its report. “Without commenting on any classified information, this much is painfully obvious: The Chinese Communist Party has lied, is lying, and will continue to lie about coronavirus to protect the regime.”Deborah Birx, the State Department immunologist advising the White House on its response to the outbreak, said Tuesday that China’s public reporting influenced assumptions elsewhere in the world about the nature of the virus.“The medical community made — interpreted the Chinese data as: This was serious, but smaller than anyone expected,” she said at a news conference on Tuesday. “Because I think probably we were missing a significant amount of the data, now that what we see happened to Italy and see what happened to Spain.”China isn’t the only country with suspect public reporting. Western officials have pointed to Iran, Russia, Indonesia and especially North Korea, which has not reported a single case of the disease, as probable under-counts. Others including Saudi Arabia and Egypt may also be playing down their numbers.U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has publicly urged China and other nations to be transparent about their outbreaks. He has repeatedly accused China of covering up the extent of the problem and being slow to share information, especially in the weeks after the virus first emerged, and blocking offers of help from American experts.“This data set matters,” he said at a news conference in Washington on Tuesday. The development of medical therapies and public-health measures to combat the virus “so that we can save lives depends on the ability to have confidence and information about what has actually transpired,” he said.“I would urge every nation: Do your best to collect the data. Do your best to share that information,” he said. “We’re doing that.”(Updates with Pence’s comment in sixth paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

Trump warns of 'painful two weeks' as officials predict up to 240,000 US coronavirus deaths

Trump warns of 'painful two weeks' as officials predict up to 240,000 US coronavirus deathsPresident gives unusually sombre press conference with projections taking physical distancing measures into account * Coronavirus – live US updates * Live global updates * See all our coronavirus coverageDonald Trump has warned America to brace for a “very, very painful two weeks” as the White House projected that the coronavirus pandemic could claim 100,000 to 240,000 lives, even if current social distancing guidelines are maintained.Striking an unusually sombre tone at the start a marathon two-hour briefing, the US president defended his early handling of the crisis and displayed models that, he said, justified his decision to keep much of the economy shut down.“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “We’re going to go through a very tough two weeks. This is going to be a very painful, very, very painful two weeks.”The US death toll from the coronavirus climbed past 3,800 on Tuesday, eclipsing China’s official count. Trump has been widely condemned for exacerbating the crisis by failing to prepare testing kits, breathing apparatus and other equipment.On Tuesday his experts said their models showed between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans could die from the coronavirus even if the country keeps mitigation measures in place.Dr Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus taskforce response coordinator, told reporters that models show a worst case scenario of between 1.5m and 2.2m deaths in the US “without mitigation”.But with measures in place, she added, the “mountain” could be reduced to a “hill” that projects 100,000–240,000 deaths – still a staggering total. She stressed that the number could be lower if people changed their behavior.She displayed a chart in which New York had by far the most cumulative cases, followed by New Jersey, then the other 48 states bunched together. Birx expressed hope that social distancing could prevent major outbreaks in those states.Early mitigation slowing the spread of disease in California and Washington state “gives us great hope”, she added. “It’s communities that will do this. There’s no magic bullet. There’s no magic vaccine or therapy. It’s just behaviour.”Asked if Americans be prepared for the likelihood that there would be 100,000 Americans who die from this virus, Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said: “The answer is yes. As sobering a number as that is, we should be prepared for it.“Is it going to be that much? I hope not, and I think the more we push on the mitigation, the less likelihood it will be that number … We are really convinced mitigation is going to be doing the trick for us.”He added: “We’re going to continue to see things go up. We cannot be discouraged by that because the mitigation is actually working … Now is the time, whenever you’re having an effect, not to take your foot off the accelerator and on the brake, but to just press it down on the accelerator. And that’s what I hope and I know that we can do over the next 30 days.”Trump eventually heeded such advice, and opinion polls, after previously declaring an ambition to restart the economy by Easter. He announced on Sunday that he was extending to 30 April the guidelines that urged Americans to cease social gatherings, work from home, suspend onsite learning at schools and more in a nationwide effort to stem the spread of the virus.Trump spoke after another bad day for the stock market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged more than 400 points, or roughly 1.9%, to seal the worst first-quarter finish of its 135-year history.But the president defended shutting down much of the economy, attempting to rewrite history. Trump, who in speeches and on Twitter has compared Covid-19 to the common flu, said: “A lot of people have said, ‘Ride it out. Don’t do anything, just ride it out. And think of it as the flu.’ But it’s not the flu. It’s vicious.”And as the briefing wore on, more of the old Trump emerged. He made misleading claims about the early travel restrictions he imposed on China and Europe and, despite complaints from state governors, defended the supply of ventilators and other equipment.Although public health experts raised the alarm early based on reports from China, the president claimed: “Nobody knew how contagious this was. I don’t think any doctor knew it at the time. People have not seen anything like this.”Trump denied his early downplaying of the virus had given people a false sense of security and dismissed critics who said he should be more willing to deliver bad news. “This is really easy to be negative about, but I want to give people hope, too,” he said. “I’m not about bad news. I want to give people hope. I want to give people the feeling that we all have a chance.”And trying to put his own efforts in a positive light, he noted that without his mitigation guidelines, models show the death toll could have reached 2.2m. “You would have had people dying all over the place.“You would have seen people dying in airplanes, you would have seen people dying in hotel lobbies. How many people have even seen anybody die? You would have seen death all over.”The president added: “One hundred thousand is, according to modeling, a very low number.” But he also described the figure as “very sobering”.Trump was asked if, as the Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has suggested, he was distracted by the impeachment trial in January. “I don’t think I would’ve acted any differently,” he replied. “I don’t think I would’ve acted any faster.”In the wide-ranging session, there was also a question about a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who proposed that the coronavirus could be carried on droplets a distance of 27ft. Fauci responded: “This could really be terribly misleading … That is not practical … That is a very, very robust, vigorous, atchoo sneeze.”