Leaked documents reveal China’s mishandling of the early stages of the COVID pandemic

The Asian country offered very optimistic data at first, took too long to diagnose confirmed patients and handled the situation chaotically, according to CNN research
A man wearing a face mask on a barricade set up to keep people out of a residential complex in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province, 14 April 2020

AFP/NOEL CELIS  -   A man wearing a face mask on a barricade set up to keep people out of a residential complex in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province, 14 April 2020

China offered the world more optimistic data than the COVID pandemic had in its early days, took too long to diagnose confirmed patients and handled the situation chaotically, says the American network CNN. 

These are some of the conclusions reached by this media after analysing internal documents from the Chinese health authorities; in total, 117 pages from the Hubei Provincial Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. 

According to this research, China took an average of 23 days to diagnose confirmed patients and errors in the tests meant that most patients received negative results up until 10 January. 

Esta foto aérea tomada el 2 de febrero de 2020 muestra el hospital Huoshenshan, que significa "Montaña del Dios del Fuego", después de haber sido entregado al Ejército chino en Wuhan, en la provincia central de Hubei
PHOTO/AFP - This aerial photo taken on 2 February 2020 shows Huoshenshan Hospital, which means "Mountain of the God of Fire", after being handed over to the Chinese Army in Wuhan, in the central province of Hubei

In addition, early action on the coronavirus was hampered by a lack of funds and personnel and complex bureaucracy, which complicated China's early warning system, according to internal audits to which the chain has had access. 

CNN claims that there was also a major outbreak of influenza in early December in Hubei province, which was not previously disclosed. 

"It is February 10 in Beijing and President Xi Jinping, who for weeks has been absent from public view, is addressing hospital staff in the city of Wuhan as they battle to contain the spread of a still officially unnamed novel coronavirus," CNN states.

Trabajadores médicos con trajes protectores atienden a pacientes con el nuevo virus en la unidad de cuidados intensivos (UCI) de un hospital designado en Wuhan, provincia de Hubei, China, el 6 de febrero de 2020
PHOTO/CHINA DAILY via REUTERS - Medical workers in protective suits care for patients with the new virus in the intensive care unit (ICU) of a designated hospital in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, on 6 February 2020

"Xi expressed his condolences to those who have died in the outbreak. He urged greater public communication, as around the world concerns mounted about the potential threat posed by the new disease," it continues. 

That same day, Chinese authorities reported 2,478 new confirmed cases -- raising the total global number to more than 40,000, with fewer than 400 cases occurring outside of mainland China. 

Yet CNN can now reveal how official documents circulated internally show that this was only part of the picture.

In a report marked "internal document, please keep confidential," local health authorities in the province of Hubei, where the virus was first detected, list a total of 5,918 newly detected cases on February 10, more than double the official public number of confirmed cases. 

El presidente de China, Xi Jinping, habla por video con pacientes y trabajadores médicos en el Hospital Huoshenshan de Wuhan, en la provincia de Hubei, en el centro de China, el 10 de marzo de 2020
PHOTO/XIE HUANCHI/XINHUA via AP - China's President Xi Jinping speaks by video with patients and medical workers at Wuhan Huoshenshan Hospital in central China's Hubei Province on 10 March 2020

This larger figure was never fully revealed at that time, as China's accounting system seemed, in the tumult of the early weeks of the pandemic, to downplay the severity of the outbreak.

The Chinese government has steadfastly rejected accusations made by the United States and other Western governments that it deliberately concealed information relating to the virus. 

However, though the documents provide no evidence of a deliberate attempt to obfuscate findings, they do reveal numerous inconsistencies in what authorities believed to be happening and what was revealed to the public.