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Wuhan revises COVID-19 death toll figures


BBC

Wuhan revises COVID-19 death toll figures

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BEIJING – The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) originated last year, has raised its official Covid-19 death toll by 50 per cent, adding 1 290 fatalities.

Wuhan officials attributed the new figure to updated reporting and deaths outside hospitals. China has insisted there was no cover-up.

It has been accused of downplaying the severity of its virus outbreak.

Wuhan’s 11 million residents spent months in strict lockdown conditions, which have only recently been eased.

The latest official figures bring the death toll in the city in China’s central Hubei province to 3 869, increasing the national total to more than 4 600.

China has confirmed nearly 84 000 coronavirus infections, the seventh-highest globally, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The virus has had a huge impact on the Chinese economy, which shrank for the first time in decades in the first quarter of the year.

In a statement released on Friday, officials in Wuhan said the revised figures were the result of new data received from multiple sources, including records kept by funeral homes and prisons.

Deaths linked to the virus outside hospitals, such as people who died at home, had not previously been recorded.

The “statistical verification” followed efforts by authorities to “ensure that information on the city’s Covid-19 epidemic is open, transparent and the data [is] accurate”, the statement said.

It added that health systems were initially overwhelmed and cases were “mistakenly reported” -– in some instances counted more than once and in others missed entirely.

A shortage of testing capacity in the early stages meant that many infected patients were not accounted for, it said.

A spokesman for China’s National Health Commission, Mi Feng, said the new death count came from a “comprehensive review” of epidemic data.

In its daily news conference, the foreign ministry said accusations of a cover-up, which have been made most stridently on the world stage by United States President Donald Trump, were unsubstantiated. “We’ll never allow any concealment,” a spokesman said.

Friday’s revised figures come amid growing international concern that deaths in China have been under-reported. Questions have also been raised about Beijing’s handling of the epidemic, particularly in its early stages.

In December 2019, Chinese authorities launched an investigation into a mysterious viral pneumonia after cases began circulating in Wuhan.

China reported the cases to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UN’s global health agency, on December 31.

But WHO experts were only allowed to visit China and investigate the outbreak on February 10, by which time the country had more than 40 000 cases.

The mayor of Wuhan has previously admitted there was a lack of action between the start of January –when about 100 cases had been confirmed – and January 23, when city-wide restrictions were enacted.

Around that time, a doctor who tried to warn his colleagues about an outbreak of a Sars-like virus was silenced by the authorities. Dr Li Wenliang later died from COVID-19.

China reported the cases to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UN’s global health agency, on 31 December.

But WHO experts were only allowed to visit China and investigate the outbreak on 10 February, by which time the country had more than 40,000 cases.

The mayor of Wuhan has previously admitted there was a lack of action between the start of January – when about 100 cases had been confirmed – and 23 January, when city-wide restrictions were enacted.

Around that time, a doctor who tried to warn his colleagues about an outbreak of a Sars-like virus was silenced by the authorities. Dr Li Wenliang later died from COVID-19. (BBC)

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