There have previously been signs that China has not been completely truthful when it comes to the coronavirus.
Now, it’s been alleged that China specifically withheld coronavirus cases from it’s national total. Over 43,000 Chinese that tested positive for the virus were potentially not included in China’s totals because the patients did not exhibit symptoms. It’s quite possible that these invididuals, while not exhibiting symptoms themselves, acted as silent carriers and passes the virus along.
Take a look at the latest:
The South China Morning Post reported:
The number of “silent carriers” – people who are infected by the new coronavirus but show delayed or no symptoms – could be as high as one-third of those who test positive, according to classified Chinese government data seen by the South China Morning Post.That could further complicate the strategies being used by countries to contain the virus, which has infected more than 300,000 people and killed more than 14,000 globally.
More than 43,000 people in China had tested positive for Covid-19 by the end of February but had no immediate symptoms, a condition typically known as asymptomatic, according to the data. They were placed in quarantine and monitored but were not included in the official tally of confirmed cases, which stood at about 80,000 at the time.
Scientists have been unable to agree on what role asymptomatic transmission plays in spreading the disease. A patient usually develops symptoms in five days, though the incubation period can be as long as three weeks in some rare cases.
One obstacle is that countries tally their confirmed cases differently.
The World Health Organisation classifies all people who test positive as confirmed cases regardless of whether they experience any symptoms. South Korea also does this. But the Chinese government changed its classification guidelines on February 7, counting only those patients with symptoms as confirmed cases. The United States, Britain and Italy simply do not test people without symptoms, apart from medical workers who have prolonged exposure to the virus.
The approach taken by China and South Korea of testing anyone who has had close contact with a patient – regardless of whether the person has symptoms – may explain why the two Asian countries seem to have checked the spread of the virus. Hong Kong is extending testing to airport arrivals in the city, even if travellers have no symptoms. Meanwhile in most European countries and the US, where only those with symptoms are tested, the number of infections continues to rapidly rise.
A growing number of studies are now questioning the WHO’s earlier statement that asymptomatic transmission was “extremely rare”. A report by the WHO’s international mission after a trip to China estimated that asymptomatic infections accounted for 1 to 3 per cent of cases, according to a European Union paper.
According to the Washington Post, we should certainly be skeptical of China's numbers regarding the coronavirus. In the past, Chinese officials have falsified data regarding GDP numbers. The Washington Post reports:
China has reported fewer and fewer confirmed coronavirus cases over the past three weeks, culminating in a statement that Wuhan had seen zero new local cases for four days in a row, from March 18 to 21. Elsewhere in China, 46 new cases were reported on March 22, all but one attributed to travelers arriving from abroad.
What can we learn from Chinese statistics, and can we trust those numbers?
Numbers have long defined Chinese politics
Chinese officials pay particular attention to numbers, especially key statistical measures such as GDP growth, fiscal revenue and investment, which have long been core parts of the Communist Party’s system for evaluating officials. Positive evaluations unlocked bonuses, promotions and other rewards for officials that met specific targets.
China’s system of limited, quantified vision focused on these indicators out of a belief that close monitoring would generate effort and good results. Decades of rapid economic growth testify to the system’s success — but also gave officials incentives to misrepresent the truth and falsify statistics or look to achieve them through wasteful means.
Here’s an example. Research I published in 2016 shows that provinces reported jumps in GDP growth around the times local officials came up for promotion, but they weren’t reporting parallel levels of highly correlated statistics like electricity usage. Chinese citizens, business executives and academics had wondered about falsification, but in recent years, cases have been exposed in which local governments admitting falsified statistics. In a working paper with Jiang Junyan, we construct an index of falsification that closely tracks these cases.What does that say about China’s coronavirus statistics?
First off, this research highlights the importance of numbers in Chinese political discourse — across a wide bureaucracy, the covid-19 figures serve as the measure of performance. And past findings suggest there are reasons to pay attention to a number of possibilities, including the strong incentives for distortions in officially released data.The primary reason to be skeptical of official Chinese coronavirus statistics is that the initial reporting of the outbreak was suppressed. Local authorities in Wuhan intentionally hid the outbreak, as did national authorities.
President Xi Jinping reportedly launched a national response on Jan. 7 but did not make a public statement until Jan. 20.
Many in China will probably never forget or forgive this betrayal, despite subsequent successes in containing the outbreak. Last week, in an effort to reverse one very public misstep, Wuhan officials issued a posthumous apology to Li Wenliang for the admonishment the Wuhan doctor received after trying to spread word about the illness that would subsequently take his life.
Check out this video from the New York Times claiming China is specifically censoring stories about the coronavirus: