The comments came after a senior Republican lawmaker cast doubt on Beijing's data and Bloomberg News said a classified U.S. intelligence report had concluded that China had under-reported the total cases and deaths it had suffered.
China's decision to lock down the city of Wuhan, ground zero for the global COVID-19 pandemic, may have prevented more than 700,000 new cases by delaying the spread of the virus, researchers said Tuesday.
The Wuhan Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market was shut down in January and in February China declared an immediate and "comprehensive" ban on the trade and consumption of wild animals. Yesterday the Chinese government reported no new infections at all in Hubei province, and lockdown restrictions are being lifted.
China has publicly reported 82,394 confirmed cases and 3,316 deaths as of Thursday, according to a rolling tracker by Johns Hopkins University.
Citing US intelligence officials, Bloomberg reported that "China's public reporting of Covid-19 infections and deaths is purposefully incomplete".
The report comes as Republican congressional leaders such as Rep. Jim Banks (Ind.) and Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) push to hold China accountable for exacerbating the coronavirus outbreak. For instance, the country started to release its daily tally of new asymptomatic patients starting Wednesday, after the public expressed concerns that asymptomatic carriers might unwittingly transmit the disease.
Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, and other senior American government officials repeatedly suggested that China cannot be trusted to provide accurate information that could aid other countries in combatting the pandemic. But "I think probably we were missing a significant amount of the data", she said, "now that we see what happened to Italy and we see what happened to Spain". Saudi Arabia and Egypt may also be playing down their numbers. Newsweek noted that photos have been circulating on Chinese media of thousands of urns arriving in Wuhan, where the outbreak was initially concentrated late past year, and said loved ones had been instructed to pick up ashes from funeral homes in the city.
The official death toll in Wuhan "can't be right ... because the incinerators have been working round the clock", one resident who identified himself by his surname, Zhang, told Radio Free Asia last week.
At the peak of the virus outbreak in Wuhan the city was recording thousands of new cases a day.