China has come under increasing pressure from Western powers, with Washington and others raising doubts about transparency, and the US probing whether the virus actually originated in a Wuhan laboratory.
US President Donald Trump said China’s death toll was “far higher” that it had admitted — even after the new numbers were issued.
Chinese scientists have said the virus emerged from a Wuhan food market whose merchandise reportedly included exotic wild animals sold for human consumption.
“We’ll have to ask the hard questions about how it came about and how it couldn’t have been stopped earlier,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Thursday.
French President Emmanuel Macron told the Financial Times it would be “naive” to think China had handled the pandemic well, adding: “There are clearly things that have happened that we don’t know about.”
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian acknowledged that the virus’s rapid spread had contributed to undercounting, but added: “There has never been any concealment, and we’ll never allow any concealment.”
There however has also been some domestic discontent over the authorities’ handling of the outbreak, especially in Hubei province and its capital, Wuhan.
A civil servant in Yichang, which is in Hubei, said he had filed a lawsuit against provincial authorities for covering up the epidemic.
“Someone must be held accountable for this,” Tan Jun, the civil servant, said on social media. He later said police ordered him not to talk about the matter.