BEIJING: China said on Monday that the novel coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan in "late December 2019" where the infection was listed as "pneumonia of unknown cause", but skirted the key question about its origin in an official timeline of coronavirus detection and control published by Beijing for the first time, amid international criticism of cover-up.
Since the coronavirus outbreak, the pandemic has killed 3,331 people in China with the number of infections rising to 81,708 by Sunday, the National Health Commission (NHC) said on Monday.
A total of 1,299 patients are still being treated, while 77,078 patients have been discharged after recovery.
The deadly COVID-19 has spread rapidly throughout the world, killing more than 70,500 people and infecting over 1.2 million across over 180 countries and territories, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
In India, the COVID-19 death toll has gone up to 111 and the number of cases stands at 4,281, according to the Health ministry figures.
In late last December, the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention in central China's Hubei province detected cases of "pneumonia of unknown cause", state-run Xinhua news agency reported, citing the 38-page timeline document.
On December 30, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission issued an urgent notification to medical institutions under its jurisdiction, ordering efforts to appropriately treat patients with pneumonia of unknown cause, it said.
On December 31, the municipal commission released a briefing on its website about the pneumonia outbreak in the city, confirming 27 cases and telling the public not to go to enclosed public places or gather.
It suggested wearing face masks when going out, the document said, adding that commission started releasing the briefings on the pneumonia outbreak from the next day.
While the document listed day-by-day account of how China handled the fast spreading virus, it was conspicuously silent about the emergence of the deadly infection from Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan which was subsequently shut down.
China has faced criticism over COVID-19 crisis and Beijing has been accused of using its "propaganda" to hush-up coronavirus cases.
China and US had a lengthy spat over origin of the virus.
While US President Donald Trump called COVID-19 as China virus and Wuhan virus, Beijing said such allegations amounted to stigmatising China.
Beijing said the origin of the COVID-19 can be determined only by scientific and professional views.
"The world is paying a big price for what they (China) did and the world is paying a very big price for not letting them (information about coronavirus) come out," Trump said last month.
His remarks came after the National Security Council had tweeted that the Chinese Communist Party suppressed initial reports on the coronavirus and punished doctors, causing Chinese and international experts to miss critical opportunities to prevent a global pandemic.
The timeline document did not mention Li Wenliang, the "whistle-blower" doctor in Wuhan who was reprimanded by police when he warned about the virus in social media on December 30.
He later died due to the infection.
"The novel coronavirus disease epidemic is a major public health emergency that has spread the fastest, caused the most extensive infections and been the hardest to contain since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949," said the document, which listed developments till March 31.
The US has accused of China of delayed action resulting in the pandemic spreading to other countries, an allegation Beijing vehemently refuted asserting that it was working with the international community in an "open and highly responsible manner" to contain the global crisis.
While China imposed a lockdown on Wuhan on January 23, officials said over five million people from the city of 11 million had already left the city for Chinese New Year holidays.
The document said the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention received the first batch of samples of four patients from Hubei Province and began pathogen identification.
The National Health Commission (NHC) came up with a set of guidelines on early discovery, early diagnosis and early quarantine for the prevention and control of the viral pneumonia of unknown cause, it said.
Starting January 3, China has been regularly informing the WHO, relevant countries and regions and Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan about the pneumonia outbreak.
China began to inform the US of the pneumonia outbreak and response measures on a regular basis, it said, refuting allegations from Washington that Beijing has not shared the required data.
On January 5, laboratory test results ruled out respiratory pathogens, such as influenza, avian influenza, adenovirus, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, as the cause, it said.
On the same day, China informed the WHO about the outbreak updates and the UN health body released its first briefing on the issue.
Two days later, the China CDC succeeded in isolating the first novel coronavirus strain, the document said.
China also informed the WHO about the epidemic, sharing with the UN health body the initial progress in determining the cause of viral pneumonia.
A high-level expert team headed by Zhong Nanshan later confirmed human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus and called on people not to go to Wuhan except for extremely important reasons.