Li, the country’s second-in-command, urged local governments Monday to “seek truth from facts” and be “open and transparent” in releasing information on the epidemic.
Li’s warning appears to be part of a concerted effort to rebuild public trust amid persistent accusations that local officials deliberately downplayed the reality of the situation during the early stages of the outbreak.
It also comes as China faces increased scrutiny from overseas over its initial efforts to prevent the virus from spreading beyond its borders after it was first identified in Wuhan in December.
At Monday’s meeting, Li said that while the public had long looked forward to the good news of zero local infections, the statistics on the epidemic must be “truthful and accurate,” urging local governments not to “hide or underreport cases in pursuit of zero cases.”
Being transparent also means the public is less likely to let down its guard, which can help the implementation of epidemic control measures and prevent a rebound in cases, Li added.
On Tuesday, after new cases dropped to zero for five consecutive days, Wuhan reported a new confirmed case — a doctor working at the Hubei General Hospital. The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said in a statement that the possibility of cross-infection within that hospital could not be ruled out.
The threat of a so-called second wave continues to loom large in China.
With the number of global infections surging past 423,000, a growing number of cases have been imported back to China from overseas — many of them Chinese students and workers eager to return home as outbreaks flare up globally.
As of Tuesday, 474 imported cases have been reported by Chinese authorities, and cities like Beijing and Shanghai have imposed strict quarantine rules for international arrivals.
But as the number of local transmissions in China decreases, concerns have grown around the reliability of the current data — with many online questioning the role of asymptomatic carriers.
In China, only patients showing symptoms and positive results in nucleic tests are included in the official tally of confirmed cases. Asymptomatic patients who have tested positive are monitored and placed under quarantine until they develop symptoms or turn negative in later tests.
“Will they cause the spread (of the virus)? No they won’t,” Wu said.
“Why? Because in China, under our current measures, all close contact (patients) have been placed under quarantine and isolated medical observation, and will be sent to hospital for diagnosis and treatment once they develop symptoms. So they won’t cause any spread in society,” he added.