The Central Intelligence Agency told the White House that the Chinese government has far more cases of coronavirus than it is reporting, according to a report Thursday.
Citing current and former intelligence community officials, The New York Times reported that CIA officials have been telling the White House since early February that Beijing is underreporting the number of infections and deaths from coronavirus in the country.
The agency has made the determination based in part on information in the press and from CIA assets in the communist nation, according to TheNYT.
The report added new detail to a Bloomberg News report from Wednesday that U.S. intelligence officials doubt the data coming out of China.
A number of health experts, U.S. lawmakers and journalists have cast doubt on the Chinese government’s official case numbers, which have hovered at around 80,000 for weeks. The virus emerged in November 2019 from a wildlife market in Wuhan, China. Chinese officials did not notify world health officials about an emerging outbreak of the virus until late December. (RELATED: Scientists Who Predicted Pandemic Blasts WHO: ‘They Set Us Back A Great Deal’)
The CIA is not certain whether the Chinese government is engaged in a top-down effort to conceal the number of coronavirus cases, or if mid-level bureaucrats have withheld the information from Beijing, according to TheNYT.
A CIA spokesperson declined comment to the Daily Caller News Foundation.
It is no surprise that American spies are collecting information from inside China. But the efforts have perhaps even greater life-and-death implications than normal spy efforts.
Data that China released early in the pandemic led world health officials to draw two inaccurate conclusions about how coronavirus is transmitted.
The World Health Organization on Jan. 14 cited China’s data to conclude that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission of coronavirus. WHO official Bruce Aylward, who led a fact-finding mission to China in February, said for weeks after the trip that there was little evidence that coronavirus was being transmitted by people without symptoms.
Researchers now know that the virus is transmitted from person to person. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said as many as 25% of people infected with coronavirus do not display symptoms.
Chinese health officials on Wednesday said they would begin counting asymptomatic patients towards the country’s overall case numbers. Before that, the government was counting patients only if they showed symptoms of COVID-19 and tested positive for the disease.
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