13:25 08.09.2020

Daughter of UK man 'who died from COVID-19 in January' attacks China for 'cover-up'

Source: Sky News
Daughter of UK man 'who died from COVID-19 in January' attacks China for 'cover-up'

The daughter of a British man who may have been the first person to die from COVID-19 outside China has said her father might still be alive if Beijing hadn't "covered up" the outbreak.

Peter Attwood, 84, from Chatham, Kent, died in hospital on 30 January, after falling ill soon before Christmas with a cough and fever.

His cause of death - initially attributed to heart failure and pneumonia - has been given as COVID-19 by the county coroner after the coronavirus was found in his lungs, The Sun reported.

This is believed to make Mr Attwood the first known death from COVID-19 outside China, coming just 19 days after the first reported casualty from the disease in the city where it is believed to have originated, Wuhan.

The first coronavirus death in the UK was previously thought to have occurred on 5 March.

Mr Attwood's daughter Jane Buckland told the paper her father and many more victims could still be alive had the Chinese government not "covered up" the outbreak.

The 46-year-old said: "If China hadn't lied to the rest of the world and kept this hidden for so long, it could have saved countless lives."

Her remarks appeared in the newspaper alongside a copy of the coroner's letter to Ms Buckland, dated 27 August, confirming her father's cause of death.

"COVID has obviously been around for much longer than we know," she added.

"People have been talking about a cover-up but we don't know the scale of it. My father could still be here if we'd known about the threat of this horrible virus earlier."

Ms Buckland, who works as a full-time carer, said she feared she had infected her father, as she had suffered symptoms including a fever and a dry cough prior to Christmas, when "no-one knew what (COVID-19) was".

She said her elderly father had an underlying heart condition, and so would have been shielding if the nature of the disease had have been known at that time.

Ms Buckland said her daughter Megan, 18, had also come down with a cough and fever on 10 January.

Her attack on China and its handling of the disease comes as Boris Johnson imposes a ban on groups of more than six people gathering in homes, parks, pubs and restaurants in England following a surge in cases.

It's Downing Street's biggest coronavirus crackdown since lockdown rules were eased.

China has suffered many fewer cases and deaths from coronavirus than the UK, although some doubt Beijing's official figures.

The country's ambassador to the UK has repeatedly denied a cover-up, and told Sky News earlier this year that the Chinese government would welcome an "international review" into the origins of the pandemic.

According to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the pandemic, China has had almost 91,000 cases and more than 4,700 deaths.

The UK has seen nearly 355,000 cases, with more than 41,000 people having died.

A government spokesperson said: "Every death is a tragedy. There is no evidence that there was sustained transmission within the community in January 2020.

"We acted swiftly to curb coronavirus and at all times we have been guided by the best available evidence to deliver a strategy designed to protect the NHS and save lives."

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