China denies that it concealed the early spread of the virus.
The Chinese government on Sunday strongly defended its handling of the coronavirus, pushing back at criticism that officials had suppressed early reports of the outbreak and contending instead that China had set a strong example for how to combat it.
A top Chinese official said at a news conference in Beijing that the government and state news media had provided early, timely and extensive information since the first cases appeared in Hubei Province late last year. In an apparent reference to the Trump administration’s numerous assertions that China is to blame for the subsequent pandemic, he complained bitterly about what he described as foreign lies and slanders.
“Those are completely unwarranted and unreasonable,” said the official, Xu Lin, who oversees the State Council Information Office. On Sunday the agency published a detailed report on China’s epidemic response.
Ma Xiaowei, the minister in charge of the National Health Commission, also said that China had “not delayed in any way” the release of information about the disease.
The report is an attempt by the Chinese government to provide a comprehensive narrative for the epidemic, ignoring any early missteps. It describes local and provincial officials as having faithfully implemented the instructions of the central government, without mentioning that some of these officials were hurriedly replaced after initial problems.
Critics have pointed out that while Chinese scientists moved quickly to identify the new virus and share their findings internationally, political leaders were slower to act, ordering police investigations of doctors who tried to sound the alarm in late December.As the U.S. and other countries struggle to bring their outbreaks under control, China has largely returned to normal life, with its last remaining high-risk area, a district in the northeastern city of Jilin, lowering its epidemic response level on Sunday. The government reported six new cases across the country on Sunday, including five that originated abroad and one that was transmitted locally in the southern island province of Hainan. Since the outbreak began, the Chinese mainland has recorded more than 89,000 cases and more than 4,600 deaths.