United States intelligence has reportedly concluded that China is concealing the number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
Citing three anonymous officials with knowledge of a classified report presented to the White House, Bloomberg reports that China's reporting of cases of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the number of deaths it has led to is "intentionally incomplete".
The secret intelligence report was last week presented to the White House, where staff would not officially comment on it to Bloomberg.
According to Johns Hopkins University, China says it has 82,316 cases, a number which has remained relatively stagnant over the last few weeks as the country began reporting only single-digit daily new cases and blaming any larger rises on imported cases.
The apparent success China has had in slowing down cases through intensive lockdown measures was internationally praised, especially considering the virus originated in the country.
The United States, in comparison, has more than 190,000 cases, with around half of those being reported in the last week. While the country hasn't implemented nationwide physical distancing measures to the extent China quickly did, the US does have a far smaller population. Italy and Spain have also reported more than 100,000 cases.
One of the possible reasons for the smaller numbers is that China, by its own admission, hasn't been recording asymptomatic cases, which health experts believe make up a large proportion of people with the virus.
On Tuesday, responding to criticism, China's National Health Commission said it would report that data from now on. The South China Morning Post reported on March 22 that 43,000 asymptomatic cases weren't included in China's official numbers.
There have also been reports of a large number of urns being seen, funerals being held and cremations occuring in the country, again driving concern Beijing has not been honest with the effect the virus is having.
China's initial response to COVID-19 has also previously been criticised, with the nation not listening to warnings from doctors about the emergence of a new virus.
"With the cover-up in December and January, we really cannot trust the numbers from the Chinese government without more credible and solid evidence to verify," Ho-Fung Hung, a political economy professor at Johns Hopkins University told The Guardian.
Data provided from other countries like Iran, Russia, and North Korea - which apparently has no cases of the virus - has also been questioned.
There are nearly 900,000 cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, in the world. About 45,000 people have died from the disease.