China had 55,000 confirmed cases in February, but the real number was actually around 232,000. Chinese authorities used very narrow criteria to define cases, changing versions seven times. The fifth one, later withdrawn, led to a surge in cases. Meanwhile, the virus is re-emerging in a number of provinces.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – China’s first wave of coronavirus cases in February was at least 232,000 cases, four times the official figure provided by the government.
According to research by group of scientific researchers in Hong Kong, Chinese health authorities used a very narrow definition of cases at the start of the crisis,
Between 15 January and 3 March, China’s National Health Commission issued seven versions of a case definition for COVID-19; all this with the approval of the World Health Organisation.
In an article published in Lancet, scientists at Hong Kong University’s school of public health note that these changes had substantial effects on how cases were counted.
The fifth Chinese version was published on 5 February, before it was withdrawn on 17 February, after it led to a sudden jump in cases.
Had it been used from the beginning, the number of cases recorded on 20 February, at the peak of the epidemic, would have been around 232,000 rather than 55,000 with an impact also on the total number of deaths.
The broader definition of coronavirus includes mild and asymptomatic cases, without requiring confirmation by both clinical symptoms and laboratory tests.
Initially, Chinese authorities even associated the outbreak to epidemiological links to Wuhan (Hubei), the epicentre of the infection.
China has been accused abroad of lying about the figures associated with the pandemic, as well as the origin and spread of the disease.
Chinese authorities "fixed" the number of deaths in Wuhan, bringing it to 3,869, 1,290 more than previously reported, to include people who died at home and in prisons.
No deaths from COVID-19 was reported yesterday in the country, the eighth day in a row. In all ten new cases were recorded, six from abroad.
Overall, China has 83,782 confirmed cases with 4,632 deaths. However, the virus is re-emerging in some provinces, especially in the north.
Harbin (Heilongjiang) is partially locked down, with 78 new confirmed new cases in the past few days.
Travel restrictions and quarantine measures remain in place in many other cities, including Beijing and Shanghai.