WASHINGTON - China said more people have died in Wuhan in its COVID-19 crisis than originally thought, fueling doubts about the accuracy of its coronavirus death toll as the global fatality number for the virus surpassed 150,000 on Friday.
Officials in Wuhan, the epicenter of the contagion in China, raised the city’s death toll by more than 50 percent. Health officials said in a statement that 1,290 more people died in the outbreak, raising the death toll to 3,869.
The statement, which also said the number of confirmed cases was raised by 325 to 50,333, cited various reasons for the revised numbers, including “data discrepancies,” a surge of cases that “overwhelmed” the health care system, and at-home deaths that were not included in the original tally.
Foreign health officials have been skeptical of China’s initial reports of cases and fatalities, but Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian denied China engaged in a cover-up.
Spain’s Health Ministry has also changed the way it counts deaths and confirmed cases of COVID-19, saying it wanted to correct inconsistencies in the way the information is reported. The country’s official one-day death toll reported Friday was 585, a dramatic increase from the 348 deaths that would have been reported using the previous method.
Spain has been one of the world’s hardest-hit countries, with more than 190,000 confirmed cases and more than 20,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics.
There are now nearly 2.2 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 153,000 deaths worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. is by far the world leader in confirmed cases, with nearly 700,000. The U.S. also leads the world in fatalities, with more than 36,700 deaths.
On Friday, several U.S. governors, including those in Texas, Minnesota and Vermont, laid out plans to gradually reopen their states. The move follows U.S. President Donald Trump’s unveiling Thursday of a set of nonbinding guidelines for a gradual reopening of the country, while declaring the safety and health of Americans would be the top priority in his administration’s plans.
The White House argued Friday that the country has the testing capacity to reopen the economy, rejecting criticism that testing has not been increased enough.
"We believe today that we have the capacity in the United States to do a sufficient amount of testing for states to move into phase one in the time and manner that they deem appropriate," Vice President Mike Pence said at the daily White House briefing. Phase one of the White House guidelines allows for some businesses, including restaurants and gyms, to reopen.
Trump announced Friday a $19 billion program to help farmers who have faced financial difficulties due to the pandemic, including direct payments and mass purchases of produce and meat.
U.S. stocks soared Friday on the hopes the economy would soon reopen and on reports of a potential drug treatment for the COVID-19 disease from U.S. drug maker Gilead Sciences Inc. Gilead reported that patients with severe symptoms of the coronavirus responded well to the experimental drug. The company’s trial was small, however, and the preliminary findings have yet to be reviewed by peers.
Some countries in Europe also are making plans for a gradual return of their citizens to normal life, despite the continued rise of confirmed cases and deaths worldwide.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to allow some schools to reopen beginning May 4, following similar plans in Denmark, Italy, Austria and Spain. Merkel said some stores could reopen next week.
Germany’s health minister, Jens Spahn, said Friday that the country’s lockdown has brought the country’s coronavirus outbreak under control. He said since Sunday, the number of recovered patients has been consistently higher than the number of new infections.
In Nigeria, the president's chief of staff, Abba Kyari, died on Friday after contracting the coronavirus, according to tweets from two presidency spokesmen.
Also Friday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that while children appear to be spared from COVID-19’s “most severe symptoms,” their lives “are being totally upended.”
He called for countries to “protect our children and safeguard their well-being.” He said millions of children are missing school and the food they receive there.