China Revising Wuhan Coronavirus Death Toll
The Chinese city at the center of the global pandemic said Friday it is re-examining the way it counted victims of the new SARS coronavirus as international pressure against them mounts.
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Wuhan city officials said today that they were in the process of revising the numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases and fatalities in the city of roughly 11 million, and the epicenter of the viral outbreak that began in December.
The full text of the order was published by Xinhua, China’s largest state controlled newswire.
It read: “following the principle of being responsible for history, the people and the deceased and to ensure that the information on the city’s COVID-19 epidemic is open, transparent and the data are accurate, the Wuhan municipal headquarters for COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control established a group for epidemic-related big data and epidemiological investigations. Municipal authorities for health, disease control, public security, civil affairs, judicial affairs and statistics have pooled their efforts to compare the COVID-19 case information in the Wuhan municipal COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control big data system, the municipal funeral service system, the municipal hospital authority’s COVID-19 information system, and the municipal novel coronavirus nucleic acid test system to remove double-counted cases and fill in missed cases.”
As this order was just published today, there has been no spike in the number of past cases and deaths from Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital city.
For months, as people around the world watched death tolls far surpass that of China, Hubei’s numbers had lost any semblance of reality.
As of now, China had reported 83,760 cases, compared to over 104,000 in the U.K., 168,000 in Italy and over 671,000 in the U.S.
While the vast majority of those cases do not require hospitalization and many are asymptomatic, China’s lackluster data on the viral spread led many countries to believe that public health authorities there had stopped the spread. And that 4,512 deaths (the latest tally) in a province the size of France was manageable at the hospital level. Some 17,942 people have died in France due to COVID-19.
Even as the infection rate rose in Hubei during draconian lockdown measures that saw Chinese law enforcement barricading neighborhoods and demanding people stay in their apartments, the main leaders of the Communist Party (CCP) in Beijing were not happy with their response.
If there is one thing the CCP hates it is being embarrassed. The outbreak was world news. Xi Jinping, the country’s president, fired at least three Hubei communist party bosses in charge at the time. It was an attempt to save face.
But that was not enough. As case loads ballooned around the world, forcing more than 22 million people out of work in the U.S. alone, animosity towards China is growing.
The U.S. intelligence services said two weeks ago that China’s infection rate data was bogus. The U.K. government of Boris Johnson, who spent nearly a week in a London hospital intensive care unit with COVID-19, said China was not forthcoming in its data, to put it mildly.
And earlier this week, The Washington Post revealed that the State Department, as far back as 2015, had been warning that bat coronavirus research being conducted at a virology lab in Wuhan had sub-par safety standards. It was an accident waiting to happen, they warned.
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The pressure from the U.S., and to a lesser extent Japan, which is paying companies billions to move back home, may force China to open up more about the origins of the virus, and reveal to the world, and to their own people, just how many people died in the pandemic. It may be embarrassing to Chinese leaders, but if more transparency ends up spreading the scientific and logistical know-how to contain this disease so countries are not forced to shut down every winter because of it, then it may be forgivable.
The Wuhan officials said today in the note published by Xinhua that data discrepancies were due to the surging number of patients in January that overwhelmed hospitals.
Worth noting, Hubei officials were warned of a new SARS-like disease when doctors discovered it in two patients back in December.
Those doctors were rounded up, jailed, and blamed for spreading rumors by Hubei party bosses.
One of those doctors, Dr. Li Wenliang, died upon release after returning to a Wuhan hospital to work with COVID-19 patients.
From the Wuhan note, the city admitted that patients died at home.
During the height of viral spread, hospitals were “operating beyond their capacities and medical staff were preoccupied with saving and treating patients, resulting in belated, missed and mistaken reporting,” Wuhan city officials said.
Due to the rapid increase of designated hospitals for treating COVID-19 patients, including those administered by Beijing, Hubei Province, Wuhan city and its districts, private hospitals and newly built ones, it was hard for everyone to share data in short order, Wuhan city officials said.
It seems like few of those hospitals were linked in to the province’s epidemic information network and failed to report their data in time.