A doctor being disinfected by his colleague at a quarantine zone in Wuhan on January 3.

STR/AFP via Getty Images

The central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus first appeared, on Friday revised its death toll almost exactly 50% higher, to 3,869 from 2,579.

Local officials in Wuhan said earlier deaths were missed because the city’s medical facilities were overwhelmed, according to Chinese state media.

Questions have long swirled about China’s official figures. President Donald Trump on Wednesday said: “Do you really believe those numbers in this vast country called China?”

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The central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus first appeared late last year, revised its death toll sharply higher on Friday.

Local authorities changed the previous figure of 2,579 to 3,869, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

The change, 1,290 additional deaths, is an increase of almost exactly 50%. Officials also added another 325 cases that had not led to a death, bringing the city’s total reported cases to 50,333.

That brings China’s official death toll up to 4,632.

According to Xinhua, an unnamed official from the Wuhan municipal headquarters for COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control said cases were missed earlier because of the immense pressure on the city’s health system.

“Due to the insufficiency in admission and treatment capability, a few medical institutions failed to connect with the disease prevention and control system in time, while hospitals were overloaded and medics were overwhelmed with patients,” the official said. “As a result, belated, missed, and mistaken reporting occurred.”

There have long been questions about China’s official figures, which are considerably lower than some other countries despite the novel virus first appearing in China in December, if not earlier.

While China’s population is about four times that of the US, the US has more than 670,000 cases and more than 33,000 dead.

Chinese officials have repeatedly argued that China’s aggressive response to the virus, such as the decision to lock down Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, for months, kept the situation from spiraling out of control.

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The unnamed official who announced the change to the city’s death toll said Friday: “As the main battleground for securing a decisive victory in the national epidemic prevention and control, Wuhan has taken the most comprehensive, stringent, and thorough prevention and control measures.”

Many outside observers, including the US president, have expressed doubts.

“Do you think you’re getting honest numbers from some of these countries? Do you really believe those numbers in this vast country called China?” President Donald Trump asked at a White House coronavirus task force press briefing on Wednesday. “Does anybody really believe that?”

“Some countries that are in big, big trouble,” he added. “And, they’re not reporting the facts.”

The US intelligence community believes that China has intentionally concealed the true extent of the damage caused by the coronavirus in the country, presenting fabricated case and death totals, Bloomberg News reported earlier this month.

Revisions to official tallies have been made in other places as well, however, including the US.

New York City, a major hot spot in a hard-hit state, revised its death toll higher Tuesday by 3,700, bringing the city’s total above 10,000. The added deaths were those who had never tested positive but were presumed to have died from the disease.

“In the heat of battle, our primary focus has been on saving lives,” Mayor Bill de Blasio’s press secretary, Freddi Goldstein, told The New York Times this week. “As soon as the issue was raised, the mayor immediately moved to release the data.”

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