Polluted statistics

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Polluted statistics


The author is a Beijing correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

The controversy over China’s statistics on Covid-19 is growing. The Tungchi Hospital of Wuhan University of Science and Technology recently posted that about 100 patients were tested positive but could not be reported to the health authorities. Four days later, the city of Wuhan announced that it had investigated the rumor and found it to be untrue. Around that time, there was a report that no new cases were confirmed in Wuhan for three consecutive days.

A photo of ash urns at a funeral home in Hankou, Wuhan — which showed more than twice the 2,535 acknowledged coronavirus deaths in the city — was soon released on a Chinese media, prompting suspicions over an arbitrary reduction in the number of deaths. This time, Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shaye spoke up. On French news channel BFM, Lu said what the government said was accurate. As the cremation process started two months after the outbreak, bodies with other causes of death were also included in the number of urns, he explained. After the United States criticized China for intentionally reducing and concealing statistics, China responded that it was a groundless accusation.

In February, when the number of positive cases peaked day by day, the Chinese health authorities changed the positive diagnosis standard three times in one week. After clinically-diagnosed patients were included in the positive cases, new patients increased 15,153 in a single day in Hubei Province. A week later, the clinically-diagnosed patients — as determined by doctors — were excluded. The Hubei governor was replaced for inaccurate case counting and failure to properly respond.

Infected people with no symptoms also were excluded from the cases. When the Chinese health authorities announced the guideline on Feb. 14, a foreign correspondent asked if China excluded the cases of infection with no symptoms to reduce the number of positives cases and why China made the decision. Zeng Yixin, vice minister of China’s National Health Commission, said that infected people with no symptoms have little risk of spreading the virus as they do not sneeze or cough. But on April 1, the Chinese government changed the guideline again to “provide accurate data for the safety of the people.” Many people suspect that politics is reflected in China’s statistics.

At a March 30 meeting for Covid-19 control, Premier Li Keqiang said that no report should be dropped or hidden from all regions. Does his mentioning of “dropped reports” acknowledge that there have already been false reports? I still wonder.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 3, Page 28
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