A week earlier, the World Health Organisation (WHO) was still parroting Chinese authorities’ false claims there was “no clear evidence” of such transmission.
We now know the virus is, and always was, extraordinarily contagious.
By suppressing that information for weeks, China robbed the rest of the world of time it could have used to prepare for the pandemic.
“The medical community interpreted the Chinese data as: This was serious, but smaller than anyone expected, because I think probably we were missing a significant amount of data, now that what we see happened to Italy and see what happened to Spain,” Dr Deborah Birx, the immunologist currently serving as the White House’s coronavirus response co-ordinator, said this week.
Put more simply, China’s deception led other nations to make false assumptions about the virus, which left them more vulnerable to the pandemic.
But the intervention came too late. According to researchers from the University of Southampton, China could have cut the number of cases by an astonishing 95 per cent if it had acted three weeks sooner.
And even now, the Chinese Government’s figures cannot be trusted.
China has reported 81,554 cases of the virus and 3312 deaths, but those numbers have barely risen in a month. The government claims local transmission has all but stopped. Most new cases, few as there are, have been classified as “imported” from overseas.
Meanwhile three countries – the United States, Italy and Spain – have seen their confirmed cases surge past 100,000.
At the time of writing, the US had reported 211,408 cases and 4718 deaths.
“Once the central government’s propaganda mission to win the ‘people’s war’ against the virus became clear, numbers shifted to achieve that vision,” the newspaper noted.
“Such shifts would probably be subtle – not hundreds or thousands of hidden deaths, but instead excluding deaths that could be attributed to other types of pneumonia or heart failure, for instance.”
Reacting to the US intelligence report today, Republican Senator Ben Sasse dismissed China’s figures as “garbage propaganda”.
“The claim that the United States has more coronavirus deaths than China is false,” Mr Sasse said.
“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.”
His colleague Michael McCaul struck a similar tone.
“They lied to the world about the human-to-human transmission of the virus, silenced doctors and journalists who tried to report the truth and are now apparently hiding the accurate number of people impacted by this disease,” Mr McCaul said.
Those comments are merely the most recent in an increasingly bitter war of words between China and the United States, with each country blaming the other for the pandemic.