#It has long been suspected that #China may have fudged the numbers when it comes to the true number of coronavirus infections the country endured.
#But there now appears to be proof that during a critical phase of the pandemic up to 10 times more people caught COVID-19 than official figures stated. #Extraordinarily, this revelation has come from the #Chinese government itself.
#An infectious diseases expert has said authorities failed to give a “true appreciation of the infection and its size”.
#From late #January, images of #Wuhan being locked down circulated globally, a precursor of what was to come in any countries.
#According to the #Wuhan #Municipal #Health #Commission, the city where coronavirus was first recorded has seen a total of 50,354 cases in its more than 11 million residents.
#However, newly released research by the #Chinese #Centre for #Disease #Control and #Prevention (CDC) paints a very different picture.
RELATED: #Follow our live virus updates
#It tested 34,000 people within #Wuhan, the surrounding #Hubei province and a number of other cities outside the area, to see if they had antibodies to COVID-19 – a sign that they would have contracted the virus.
“The investigation found that the positive rate of new coronavirus antibodies in the community population in #Wuhan was 4.43 per cent,” the report stated.
They would suggest almost 500,000 people in #Wuhan contracted COVID-19, 10 times more than the 50,000 officially recorded.
#Outside of #Wuhan, the number dropped dramatically, with just two people in the study from the wider #Hubei province having the antibodies.
“The survey results show that the (#Chinese) population is generally at a low level of infection, indicating that the epidemic control with #Wuhan as the main battlefield has been successful and effectively prevented the large-scale spread of the epidemic,” the CDC stated.
RELATED: #China suggests COVID-19 arrived in #Wuhan via frozen #Australian meat
WUHAN NUMBERS MASSIVELY UNDER-REPORTED
#China watchers have said the vast under-reporting of the true number of cases is likely down to a number of factors. These include a lack of testing kits which meant many people with COVID-19 symptoms were never diagnosed as positive. #This was not only an #Chinese issue – in the early days of the pandemic many countries struggled to keep up with demand for tests with cases slipping through the net.
#But in #China, there are also appeared to be a concerted effort to downplay the virus’ spread both to calm the public but also, it has been suggested, because of the bloated nature of the #Xi #Jinping-led #Chinese #Government and the desire not to offend higher up officials.
A CNN report from earlier this month found that, for a time, officials in #Wuhan routinely minimised the number of coronavirus infections in figures given to the public.
#On #February 10, 2478 new cases of COVID-19 were officially recorded in #Hubei, including #Wuhan. #However, a leaked confidential document seen by the US network showed that the true number was 5918 new cases, more than double.
The infections that were brushed under the carpet were what #Chinese officials called “clinically diagnosed” cases. These were cases that were very likely to be COVID, and showed classic symptoms, but the patient hadn’t had a test. #In some cases, the patient was seriously ill and being treated as if they had the disease, but they didn’t appear in the numbers.
RELATED: #China’s radical new plan to transform its economy
These “clinically diagnosed” cases were often lumped into a category called “suspected cases” which were often reported on many days later or simply added to a running tally that didn’t list daily new infections. #Critics have said this may have been an attempt to make the outbreak look more contained.
#Talking to CNN, infectious diseases expert #Professor #William #Schaffner of #Vanderbilt #University in #Nashville said #Chinese officials had “seemed actually to minimise the impact of the epidemic at any moment in time. #To include patients who were suspected of having the infection obviously would have expanded the size of the outbreak and would have given, I think, a truer appreciation of the nature of the infection and its size”.
#It was only later in #February that the definition of a COVID-19 infection was widened in #China to include these cases.
COMMUNIST PARTY PECKING ORDER
A further factor was the #Communist #Party’s strict and complicated political hierarchy when it came to decisions about how to handle the pandemic
#That was one of the conclusions reached by #Richard #McGregor who analysed #China’s reaction to COVID-19 in a paper for #Australian think tank the #Lowy #Institute.
“The CDC ranks below the #National #Health #Commission, whose leaders in turn fall under provincial party chiefs in the bureaucratic pecking order,” #Mr #McGregor wrote in #July.
“The city and provincial leaders needed permission from the top of the party and central government in #Beijing to make announcements of any gravity.”
#Mr #McGregor also said officials in #Hubei may have been keen to avoid announcing a deadly new virus during the #Lunar #New #Year – an important and politically sensitive time.
“The entire system, beset with fear, uncertainty, cover-ups, bad faith, and indecision at multiple levels, misfired until the top tier finally realised the gravity of the situation,” he wrote.
“The result was that the virus spread beyond #Wuhan, into the rest of the country, and then the world — further, and faster, than it ever should have.”
The CDC’s findings chime with a #June US analysis that also suggested infections were far greater than reported.
#Academics at the US #Washington #University #School of #Medicine in #St #Louis couldn’t test #Wuhan locals for antibodies. #Instead they examined the distribution of funeral urns and the capacity of cremation services in the city during the pandemic’s early months.
The non-peer reviewed paper said COVID-19 deaths were likely to be in the region of 36,000, more than 10 times the reported 2500 fatalities. #As such, infections were also likely to be at least 10 times higher.
“The magnitude of discrepancy between our estimates based on cremation related data and #Chinese official figures in early #February, suggests the need to re-evaluate official statistics from #China,” the US analysis said.
There are still some who doubt the veracity of #China’s COVID-19 figures. #It can seem incredible that a vast nation where coronavirus first appeared should now be almost entirely free of it, bar flare ups here and there.
#However, since earlier in the pandemic, #China has tightened up and standardised its COVID-19 reporting. #Research from #Oxford #University has concluded that while early figures were “manipulated,” current numbers appear genuine. #And if the virus was rife right now in the country, it would be difficult to hide neighbourhoods being locked down and rising hospital admissions.
#Nonetheless, official numbers emanating from #Beijing – on everything from industrial output to GDP – have long been taken with a pinch of salt abroad.
#It’s claimed there are strong motives for officials to ensure targets are met, or appear to be met, for fear of embarrassing the #Communist #Party and their superiors.
The admission that COVID-19 infections in #Wuhan could have been 10 times the official figure may lead some to believe #China’s experience with COVID-19 will never completely add up.
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##Chinese ##Government ##Wuhan #outbreak #times #larger