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China Revises Up Wuhan Death Toll As US Plans To Re-opening The Economy

A man wears a face mask as people gather along the Yangtze river in Wuhan, China’s central Hubei province on April 16, 2020. – China has largely brought the coronavirus under control within its borders since the outbreak first emerged in the city of Wuhan late last year. (Photo by Hector RETAMAL / AFP)

The Chinese city at the origin of the coronavirus outbreak revised up its death toll by 50 percent Friday, as global criticism mounted over China’s handling of the deadly pandemic.

Since emerging from Wuhan late last year, the coronavirus has embarked on a deadly march across the planet, killing more than 140,000 people and wrecking the global economy as half of humanity is trapped indoors.

While President Donald Trump announced a phased re-opening of the United States, the economic devastation was clear to see in China where gross domestic product slammed into reverse for the first time since records began.

And Wuhan’s city government added 1,290 deaths to its toll, bringing the total to 3,869 after many dead were “mistakenly reported” or missed entirely, adding to growing global doubts over China’s transparency.

Leaders in France and Britain joined Trump’s broadsides against China, as two US media outlets reported suspicions the virus accidentally slipped out of a sensitive Wuhan laboratory that studied bats.

President Emmanuel Macron told the Financial Times it would be “naive” to think China had handled the pandemic well, adding: “There are clearly things that have happened that we don’t know about.”

Beijing and Moscow slapped down the attacks, with Russian President Vladimir Putin denouncing “attempts by some people to smear China.”

Life-and-death balance
World leaders are grappling with the question of when to re-open society, seeking a life-and-death balance between unfreezing stalled economies and preventing a deadly second coronavirus wave.

While Trump declared Thursday that the time had come for the “next front in our war” with a phased reboot of the US economy, others took the opposite path — Japan, Britain and Mexico all expanded current restrictions.

Despite the United States suffering a staggering 4,500 deaths in the last 24 hours — taking the national toll to almost 33,000 — Trump proclaimed: “We’re opening up our country.”

The president’s approach was more cautious than previous hopes for a sudden re-opening however, with state governors given the lead.

Lightly affected states can open “literally tomorrow”, said Trump, while others would receive White House “freedom and guidance” to achieve that at their own pace.

In New York state for example — were more than 11,500 have died — Governor Andrew Cuomo extended a shutdown order until May 15.

Top US government scientist Anthony Fauci said: “Light switch on and off is the exact opposite of what you see here.”

New Yorker Jamie O’Reilly, the owner of a dog-walking business, summed up the agonising predicament world leaders face.

“Why does the economy matter if we’re not around to spend any money because we’re all sick?” the 31-year-old told AFP.


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