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China admits ‘misreporting’ Wahun COVID-19 deaths, says no cover up

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BEIJING again denied there had been any cover-up in its handling of the crisis.

But the denial is coming after authorities in Chinese city where the global coronavirus pandemic began late last year have revised its death toll upwards by 50 percent.

A local government taskforce in Wuhan charged with virus prevention added 1,290 fatalities to the city’s toll, taking the confirmed count to 3,869 from a previously reported 2,579. Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, suffered more fatalities than any other city in China as residents struggled get help from its overwhelmed medical system.

The revision comes after weeks of scepticism, from both within and outside China, over the officially reported figures. Officials said Friday’s revision was the result of incorrect or delayed reporting and not because information had been suppressed.

“Medical workers at some facilities might have been preoccupied with saving lives and there existed delayed reporting, underreporting or misreporting, but there has never been any cover-up and we do not allow cover-ups,” said China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian at a news briefing in Beijing.

While China appears to have overcome the worst of the virus, reporting only 26 new confirmed cases, its lowest daily total in two weeks, the country is grappling with the aftermath of almost three months of nationwide paralysis.

Meanwhile, China’s economy shrank for the first time in decades in the first quarter of the year, as the virus forced factories and businesses to close.

The world’s second biggest economy contracted 6.8% according to official data released on Friday.

The financial toll the coronavirus is having on the Chinese economy will be a huge concern to other countries.

China is an economic powerhouse as a major consumer and producer of goods and services.

This is the first time China has seen its economy shrink in the first three months of the year since it started recording quarterly figures in 1992.

“The GDP contraction in January-March will translate into permanent income losses, reflected in bankruptcies across small companies and job losses,” said Yue Su at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Last year, China saw healthy economic growth of 6.4% in the first quarter, a period when it was locked in a trade war with the US.

In the last two decades, China has seen average economic growth of around 9% a year, although experts have regularly questioned the accuracy of its economic data.

Its economy had ground to a halt during the first three months of the year as it introduced large-scale shutdowns and quarantines to prevent the virus spread in late January.

As a result, economists had expected bleak figures, but the official data comes in slightly worse than expected.

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