President Trump claimed on Friday that China was minimizing the number of deaths it has suffered from the coronavirus, disputing figures that showed the United States had suffered more fatalities from the disease.
According to a reputable coronavirus tracking tool compiled by the Johns Hopkins University, there have been more than 36,000 deaths in the United States from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. The number of reported deaths in China, where the pandemic originated in December 2019, currently stands at 4,632.
According to Trump, however, those figures are incorrect.
“We don’t have the-most-in-the-world deaths,” Trump said during Friday’s briefing of the White House coronavirus task force. “The most in the world has to be China,” he added, reprising an accusation he made earlier in the week.
“It’s a massive country,” he went on. “It’s gone through a tremendous problem with this, a tremendous problem. And they must have the most.”
The president did not offer evidence to back up that assertion, but his argument is at least partially bolstered by China’s admission on Friday that it had undercounted the number of deaths in Wuhan, the city in central China where the outbreak appears to have begun in a so-called wet market. It raised the number of deaths there by 1,290, bringing the reported total to 3,869.
For skeptics of Beijing’s authoritarian regime, that lone admission is but a hint of the actual coronavirus statistics in China, whose population stands at 1.4 billion. Although Wuhan and surrounding areas were locked down once authorities grasped the severity of the disease, the rapidity with which the coronavirus spreads makes it likely that it did damage beyond what the official numbers indicate.
“And that’s only in Wuhan. They’re not talking about outside of Wuhan,” Trump said, in reference to Friday’s correction. He deemed China’s alleged dishonesty “a sad state of affairs.”
Trump also entertained — though did not endorse — the theory that the virus did not originate in a wet market but, rather, was accidentally released from a Wuhan laboratory with lax biosecurity standards.
“We’re looking at it,” Trump said of that theory. “A lot of people are looking at it.”