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China covered up virus outbreak to hoard medical supplies: US


US officials believe China covered up the extent of the coronavirus outbreak to stock up on medical supplies needed to respond to it, intelligence documents show.

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Chinese leaders “intentionally concealed the severity” of the pandemic from the world in early January, according to a four-page Department of Homeland Security report.

The report is dated May 1 and was obtained by The Associated Press.

The revelation comes as the Trump administration intensified its criticism of China, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying on Sunday that China was responsible for the spread of the disease and must be held accountable.

The analysis states that, while downplaying the severity of the coronavirus, China increased imports and decreased exports of medical supplies.

It attempted to cover up doing so by “denying there were export restrictions and obfuscating and delaying provision of its trade data”, the analysis states.

The report also says China held off informing the World Health Organisation that the coronavirus was a contagion for much of January so it could order medical supplies from abroad – and that its imports of face masks and surgical gowns and gloves increased sharply.

US President Donald Trump has speculated that China could have unleashed the coronavirus due to some kind of horrible “mistake”.

His intelligence agencies say they are still examining a notion put forward by the president and aides that the pandemic may have resulted from an accident at a Chinese lab.

Speaking on Sunday on ABC’s This Week, Pompeo said he had no reason to believe that the coronavirus was deliberately spread but said China had a poor record on viruses.

“Remember, China has a history of infecting the world, and they have a history of running substandard laboratories,” he said.

Questions over high UK death toll

The British government has sought to deflect questions over Europe’s second-highest coronavirus death toll, with officials saying it will take time before the full picture becomes clear.

Deaths rose to 28,446 as of May 2 – just short of Italy – increasing pressure on the government, which has been accused of acting too slowly in the early stages of the outbreak.

Cabinet minister Michael Gove sidestepped a question on whether many lives could have been saved if mass testing was rolled out earlier.

“This government, like all governments, will have made mistakes, but it will be impossible to determine exactly which were the areas of greatest concern until some time in the future, when we have all the information that we need,” he said.

Only the US has suffered more deaths than Italy and Britain.

Ministers dislike comparisons of the headline death toll, saying that excess mortality – the number of deaths from all causes that exceed the average for the time of year – is a more meaningful metric.

The most recent available data showed there were almost 12,000 excess deaths in England and Wales in the week to April 17.

Of these, just under 9000 were linked on death certificates to the COVID-19 respiratory disease.

Analysis by media including Sky News and the Financial Times suggests those figures are worse than other European countries including Italy.

However, medical director of England’s health service said it would be some time before international comparisons of excess deaths could be made.

Concerns over high positive tests in Afghanistan

One-third of 500 random coronavirus tests in Kabul have come back positive, raising fears of widespread undetected infections.

Afghanistan has performed only limited testing so far – close to 12,000 – with more than 2700 confirmed infections, in a nation of 36.6 million.

The official death toll stands at 85.

Kabul and most other cities are in lockdown, but compliance has not been widespread.

More than 250,000 Afghans returned home from Iran since the beginning of the year, fanning out across their country without being tested or quarantined.

Anecdotal reports have emerged of dozens of returnees dying of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

The country’s health care system, devastated by four decades of war, is woefully unprepared for a major outbreak. It has only 400 ventilators.

Russia cases rise

Russia has recorded its highest daily rise in confirmed coronavirus cases with 10,633 new infections, bringing the total to 134,687, with more than half of cases and deaths in Moscow.

But the mortality rate has slowed in recent days and remains much lower, in relative terms, than many other countries.

Russia has said its lower mortality rate was because the Russian outbreak occurred later than in many other countries which gave the authorities more time to prepare.

Russia’s nationwide death toll rose to 1280 on Sunday after 58 people died in the last 24 hours, Russia’s coronavirus crisis response centre said on its website.

Russia has been in partial lockdown since the end of March to curb the spread of the virus.

There have been 4588 new cases of the novel coronavirus in Brazil and 275 deaths over the last 24 hours.

This brings the total confirmed cases in the country to over 100,000, the country’s health ministry said.

Brazil toll climbs

There have been 4588 new cases of the novel coronavirus in Brazil and 275 deaths over the last 24 hours.

This brings the total confirmed cases in the country to over 100,000, the country’s health ministry said.

Brazil has now registered 101,147 confirmed cases of the virus and 7025 deaths.

The number of cases increased roughly five per cent on Sunday from the previous day, while deaths rose by roughly 4 per cent.

-with AAP

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