Wuhan, the Chinese city where the coronavirus originated last year, has raised its official Covid-19 death toll by 50%, adding 1,290 fatalities.
The city’s officials attributed the new figure to updated reporting and deaths outside hospitals. China has insisted there was no cover-up.
China has been accused of downplaying the severity of its virus outbreak.
Wuhan’s 11 million residents spent months in strict lockdown conditions, which have only recently been eased.
The latest official figures bring the death toll in Wuhan to 3,869, increasing the national total to more than 4,600.
According to Johns Hopkins University data, China has confirmed nearly 84,000 Covid-19 infections, the seventh-highest globally.
The new coronavirus has had a huge impact on China’s economy, which shrank for the first time in decades in the first quarter of the year.
In a statement released on April 17, officials in Wuhan said the revised figures were the result of new data received from multiple sources, including records kept by funeral homes and prisons.
Deaths linked to the virus outside hospitals, such as people who died at home, had not previously been recorded.
According to the statement, the “statistical verification” followed efforts by authorities to “ensure that information on the city’s Covid-19 epidemic is open, transparent and the data [is] accurate”.
The statement added that health systems were initially overwhelmed and cases were “mistakenly reported” – in some instances counted more than once and in others missed entirely.
A shortage of testing capacity in the early stages meant that many infected patients were not accounted for, it said.
A spokesman for China’s National Health Commission, Mi Feng, said the new death count came from a “comprehensive review” of epidemic data.
In its daily news conference, the foreign ministry said accusations of a cover-up, which have been made most stridently on the world stage by President Donald Trump, were unsubstantiated. “We’ll never allow any concealment,” a spokesman said.
The April 17 revised figures come amid growing international concern that deaths in China have been under-reported. Questions have also been raised about Beijing’s handling of the epidemic, particularly in its early stages.
In December 2019, Chinese authorities launched an investigation into a mysterious viral pneumonia after cases began circulating in Wuhan.
The country reported the cases to the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN’s global health agency, on December 31.
However, WHO experts were only allowed to visit China and investigate the outbreak on February 10, by which time the country had more than 40,000 cases.
The mayor of Wuhan city has previously admitted there was a lack of action between the start of January – when about 100 cases had been confirmed – and January 23, when city-wide restrictions were enacted.
Around that time, Dr. Li Wenliang, who tried to warn his colleagues about an outbreak of a SARS-like virus, was silenced by the authorities. He later died from Covid-19.