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With Beijing desperate to avoid blame for a virus that has killed more than 1.8 million people worldwide, China is tightening up its story regarding the coronavirus pandemic's spread ahead of a World Health Organization (WHO) investigation in order to avoid being held accountable, according to reports.
The independent WHO probe — which is expected to last around four to five weeks — will involve a team of 10, one of whom told BBC News last month that it wasn't about finding a "guilty country." In March 2020, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention Leader Dr. Gauden Galea said that the intention is to learn how similar pandemics could be avoided in the coming years.
On Tuesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he is "disappointed" that Chinese officials have yet to finalize permissions for the team's arrival.
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In China, COVID-19 — which was first reported in the eastern city of Wuhan — has infected at least 96,278 and killed more than 4,787 people, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
However, a recent study from China’s CDC found that the number of cases just in Wuhan may have been 10 times higher than originally reported.
They wouldn't be the only country to underreport data. In December, Russia admitted that its death toll from the pandemic was more than three times higher than initially reported.
In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, visitors to Tiananmen Square wave Chinese national flags as they attend the flag raising ceremony on Tiananmen Square in Beijing Friday, Jan. 1, 2021. (Ju Huanzong/Xinhua via AP)
Now, in comparison to some countries such as Brazil, most of China has seemed to slow the virus to a grinding halt.
Nevertheless, China has regularly pushed aside the rhetoric of leaders like President Trump, who has largely deflected any blame for the pandemic, calling it the "China virus" or "Kung Flu."
Republican senators have followed suit, and the Senate Homeland Security Committee — led by Wisconsin GOP Sen. Ron Johnson — announced in April that they would conduct a "wide-ranging" oversight investigation into the origins of the virus, as well as the WHO's response.
Even so, investigators both at the WHO and in the U.S. are unlikely to be allowed to properly inspect some of the more sensitive aspects of the outbreak, signaled by recent state-run media efforts.
Some reports took the work of German scientist Alexander Kekulé to blame Italy for the outbreak's reach and others allege coronavirus came from packaged food from overseas.
Chinese scientists released a paper hypothesizing that the pandemic could have started in India, according to The New York Times.
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Even a senior Chinese diplomat, Wang Yi, has argued that "more and more studies" show coronavirus emerged in multiple regions.
While scientists working to put an end to the pandemic may need accurate information to do so, global politics coupled with what Kekulé calls "pure propaganda" may hinder progress.
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