The Wuhan files

The Wuhan files

Leaked documents reveal China’s mishandling of the early stages of Covid-19

Exclusive by Nick Paton Walsh, CNN

Updated 3:39 AM ET, Tue December 1, 2020London — A group of frontline medical workers, likely exhausted, stand huddled together on a video-conference call as China’s most powerful man raises his hand in greeting. 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.From a secure room about 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) from the epicenter, 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.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.CNN’s key findings

  • Chinese officials gave the world more optimistic data than they had access to internally
  • China’s system took on average 23 days to diagnose confirmed patients, and testing failures meant most received negative results until January 10
  • A history of underfunding, understaffing, poor morale and bureaucratic models of governance hampered China’s early warning system, internal audits found
  • A large and previously undisclosed outbreak of influenza happened in early December in Hubei province.

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, breaking down the total into a variety of subcategories. 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 previously undisclosed figure is among a string of revelations contained within 117 pages of leaked documents from the

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