“China has just announced a doubling in the number of their deaths from the Invisible Enemy,” Trump tweeted.
“It is far higher than that and far higher than the US, not even close!”
Trump did not provide any evidence to support his claim nor provide an explanation for how he extracted a 100 per cent doubling from China’s 50 per cent increase.
Trump has halted US funding for WHO, claiming the UN body aided China’s early cover-up of the virus when it first emerged in Wuhan.
For the second time, WHO boss Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus allowed junior staff to answer questions about China’s alleged concealment when questioned at a news conference held in Geneva.
Asked by a journalist how confident WHO was in China’s numbers and its ability to verify cases, Maria Van Kerkhove said China’s update was done “in an attempt to leave no case undocumented.”
“This is something that is a challenge in an ongoing outbreak, to identify all of your cases, to identify all of the deaths as an outbreak happens – especially if systems are overwhelmed,” she said.
“I would anticipate that many countries are going to be in a similar situation where they will have to go back and review records and look to see did we capture all of them.”
France has been tallying up previously non-reported nursing home deaths over the past fortnight, leading to a significant increase in its toll.
New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo has said officials across the state are also going back over records to see if deaths that occurred at home were the result of coronavirus and need to be included in the state’s official toll.
Worldwide, the outbreak has infected nearly 2.2 million people and killed over 145,000, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally based on figures supplied by government health authorities around the globe.
Authorities say infections and deaths have been under-reported almost everywhere. Thousands have died with COVID-19 symptoms – many in nursing homes, which have been ravaged by a disease that hits the elderly the hardest – without being tested.
Four months into the outbreak, nations are still struggling to increase their testing capacity, and many are still far from their goal.
In Italy, officials have acknowledged that the country’s official death toll of more than 22,000 understates the true number, primarily because it doesn’t include those who died in nursing homes and were not tested.
A government survey released on Friday of about one-third of Italy’s nursing homes found more than 6000 residents have died since February 1. It was unclear how many were a result of COVID-19.
In Britain, the official death toll of about 14,600 does not include deaths in nursing homes.
The country’s statistics agency has said the actual number of dead could be around 15 per cent higher; others think it will be far more.
Latika Bourke is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based in London.