U.S. officials believe China covered up the extent of the CCP virus outbreak—and how contagious the disease is—to stock up on medical supplies needed to respond to it, intelligence documents show.
Chinese leaders “intentionally concealed the severity” of the pandemic from the world in early January, according to a four-page Department of Homeland Security intelligence report dated May 1 and obtained by The Associated Press. The revelation comes as the Trump administration has intensified its criticism of China, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying on May 3 that that country was responsible for the spread of disease and must be held accountable.
Not classified but marked “for official use only,” the DHS analysis states that, while downplaying the severity of the CCP virus, China increased imports and decreased exports of medical supplies. It attempted to cover up doing so by “denying there were export restrictions and obfuscating and delaying provision of its trade data,” the analysis states.
The report also says China held off informing the World Health Organization that the CCP virus “was a contagion” for much of January so it could order medical supplies from abroad—and that its imports of masks and surgical gowns and gloves increased sharply.
Those conclusions are based on the 95 percent probability that China’s changes in imports and export behavior were not within normal range, according to the report.
China informed the WHO of the outbreak on Dec. 31. It contacted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control on Jan. 3 and publicly identified the pathogen as a novel coronavirus on Jan. 8.
Chinese officials muffled doctors who warned about the CCP virus early on and repeatedly downplayed the threat of the outbreak. However, many of the Chinese regime’s missteps appear to have been due to bureaucratic hurdles, tight controls on information, and officials hesitant to report bad news. There is no public evidence to suggest it was an intentional plot to buy up the world’s medical supplies.
In a tweet on Sunday, the president appeared to blame U.S. intelligence officials for not making clearer sooner just how dangerous a potential virus outbreak could be.
“Intelligence has just reported to me that I was correct, and that they did NOT bring up the CoronaVirus subject matter until late into January, just prior to my banning China from the U.S.,” Trump wrote. “Also, they only spoke of the Virus in a very non-threatening, or matter of fact, manner.”
Trump had previously speculated that China may have unleashed the CCP virus due to some kind of horrible “mistake.” His intelligence agencies say they are still examining whether the pandemic may have resulted from an accident at a Chinese lab.
Speaking Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Pompeo said he had no reason to believe that the CCP virus was deliberately spread. But he added, “Remember, China has a history of infecting the world, and they have a history of running substandard laboratories.”
“These are not the first times that we’ve had a world exposed to viruses as a result of failures in a Chinese lab,” Pompeo said. “And so, while the intelligence community continues to do its work, they should continue to do that, and verify so that we are certain, I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan.”
The secretary of state appeared to be referring to previous outbreaks of respiratory viruses, like SARS, which started in China.
Some experts say the CCP virus arose naturally in bats, and that they believe it wasn’t human-made. Many virologists say the chance that the outbreak was caused by a lab accident is low, though scientists are still working to determine a point at which it may have jumped from animals to humans.
By Will Weissert
Epoch Times staff contributed to this report.