10 May 2020

Covid-19: Chinese official admits health system weaknesses

11:33 am on 10 May 2020

The coronavirus pandemic is a "big test" that has exposed weaknesses in China's public health system, a senior official has told Chinese media.

Medical staff wearing protective clothing coronavirus arrive with a patient at  Wuhan Red Cross Hospital.

Photo: AFP

The rare admission, from Director of China's National Health Commission Li Bin, comes after sustained criticism abroad of China's early response.

The country will now improve its disease prevention, public health system and data collection, he said.

China has offered to help North Korea fight the pandemic there.

Li told journalists the pandemic was a significant challenge for China's governance, and that it exposed "the weak links in how we address major epidemic and the public health system."

China has been accused of responding too slowly to early signs of the virus in Wuhan, where the outbreak began, and failing to quickly alert the international community of the outbreak.

China has rejected calls for an independent international investigation into the origins of the virus.

*See all RNZ coverage of Covid-19

In April an EU report accused China of spreading misinformation about the crisis.

A doctor who tried to alert authorities about the virus in December was told to stop "making false comments". Li Wenliang later died from Covid-19 in hospital in Wuhan.

China has 4637 deaths from coronavirus, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, and nearly 84,000 cases. Globally more than 275,000 people have died, with nearly 4 million confirmed cases.

North Korea said it has had no confirmed cases of coronavirus, something that is questioned by experts.

The country has a fragile health system that would likely become overwhelmed in a serious outbreak.


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