Why China’s fudging of virus data is so problematic for other nations

coronaAs Canadians and other nationalities cling to the hope that the next 30 days may bring some respite from the Wuhan virus pandemic, news coming out of China suggest we may have to endure this Hell for many months to come.

The problem is that Chinese officials have been fudging their data. According to classified Chinese documents seen by the South China Morning Post, the number of silent carriers – people who are infected by the virus but show delayed or no symptoms – could be as high as 33 per cent of those who test positive.

Chinese officials have never included the asymptomatic numbers in their “official” counts of virus victim. The official count has been roughly 80,000, but if the silent carriers are included it would bring the total up to 120,000.

Therein lies the reason why even though China claims to have flattened the curve and has put the outbreak behind them, factories and public events have had a hard timereopening.

It is the asymptomatic carriers of the virus who continue spreading the disease, according to medical experts who assert there will be second and third waves of the outbreak.

The World Health Organization had initially said that asymptomatic transmissions were extremely rare, but that overly optimistic finding looks more like propaganda today and recent studies suggest that it is responsible for the ease with which the virus spreads.

All of which means that health officials cannot let down their guard. China will see a spike in their numbers in the days to come and further lock downs will be necessary.

“The number of novel coronavirus (Covid-19) cases worldwide continues to grow, and the gap between reports from China and statistical estimates of incidence based on cases diagnosed outside China indicates that a substantial number of cases are underdiagnosed,” a group of Japanese experts led by Hiroshi Nishiura, an epidemiologist at Hokkaido University, wrote in a letter to the International Journal of Infectious Diseases in February.

Based on their research, Nishiura put the proportion of asymptomatic Japanese patients evacuated from Wuhan, ground zero of the outbreak in China, at 30.8 per cent – similar to the classified Chinese government data.

That, in turn, means for countries in the midst of their own outbreaks that it will take considerably more time for the virus to “burn” itself out than 30 days.

It also means we should be stopping air travel to and from other hotspots lest we import yet new strains of the virus than keep the outbreak rolling along.

Again, testing is the key. All countries need to test a random sample of their populaces to get a better idea of how widely the virus has spread and to better gauge how quickly we can return to some semblance of normality.

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