In Taiwan there is a joke that whatever numbers of coronavirus China gives the WHO and the world, you have to add a zero to it. In late January, Hong Kong researchers warned true figures could be 30 times higher. Now it’s come out that scientists in the U.K. believe it’s likely up to 40 times higher.
China told the world the entire Covid-19 outbreak only resulted in a few thousand deaths. China had reported just 81,439 total cases at the time of writing. What if these weren’t actually the real figures? Would that be a crime of disinformation during a pandemic? China may be guilty of not only not containing the virus, but lying about the severity of spread.
When Taiwan experts first ventured to mainland China to report on the severity of the situation in Wuhan, they felt China was hiding something. Now it appears they were right.
So what’s the news on this now, in late March? UK government officials believe China is spreading disinformation about the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in its country, the Mail on Sunday reports.
Given how the coronavirus is spreading in the U.K., France, Spain, Italy and the United States, if only we had real figures, might have we prepared differently? Might have we acted sooner?
Now China has become a leader of trading medical equipment as it watches the world get infected by the virus that started in its own borders. British officials also believe China is trying to expand its economic power through offering help to other countries that are trying to combat the virus.
The odd part is a 40 times increase of China’s numbers isn’t even that high. It’s 3 million 284 thousand. That is however in the area of 100,000 deaths. As the global death rate hits 33,000, that number doesn’t seem so outrageous as it once did. However if China has been caught lying, according to the modelers and medical experts, what should the rest of the world do about it?
China’s morbid history of information control, public deception, censorship and misinformation campaigns has so distorted what the West even knows about China today. A shadow banking economy at its finest, to be sure. However in cases of a pandemic, to practice misinformation is a violation of our human rights to prepare against the virus that undoubtedly will lead to increased mortality rates.
A Washington Post analysis cautioned against viewing the numbers out of China as being accurate. Medical experts and politicians alike around the world have cast doubt on China’s official numbers, including any number of conspiracy theories. The problem with all of this is the WHO has repeatedly praised China. This is the sort of thing that has created great confusion during the coronavirus period and increased the financial crisis around it.
Without good data, many countries did not prepare for the spread of the pandemic out of China as they should have. What are the legal and global ramifications of such a macro event? Part of the severity of the economic depression of the virus would then be the direct consequence of China’s misinformation on the severity of its own cases. It chose its pride and image ahead of the safety of people in other countries. It chose wrongly.
Furthermore, an article in the journal Science estimates that 86 percent of Hubei’s cases were undocumented by the time authorities extended the lockdown to Wuhan and other cities on Jan. 23. Also in late January, estimates by researchers who have modeled the spread of the infection—including a team at Imperial College London—have also suggested infections are many times higher than official numbers. Again and again we heard that China’s official figures are wrong.
As the U.S. and the U.K. face significantly poor prognosis with rising infections of the pandemic, we have to turn to how this could have happened. Did they trust China’s numbers too much? Is the WHO guilty of a breach of international trust? One day we’ll get to the bottom of this.
Chinese scientists who compared the genetic sequences of 103 viral samples from patients infected with COVID-19 said their evidence suggests that the virulent version of the coronavirus — which they tagged the “L-type” version ( vs. the S-type) — was the dominant strain in the earliest phase of the outbreak that began in Wuhan late last year. As we finally begin to recover in mid to late May, China may have to prepare for a second wave of Covid-19 to hit, possibly in late summer.
As the economic recovery begins, a cyclic second wave and subsequent waves are expected of Covid-19 until we have a working live vaccine. While places like Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea have given us many tools and experiences in how to contain, contact trace, test and mitigate the virus effectively, it’s China’s “draconian” measures that have also helped us do what’s necessary.
But in reality today, China’s own early figures regarding cases of the virus make little sense compared to how the pandemic has spread globally. To believe that Italy’s coronavirus deaths are double China’s is a bit ridiculous. The virus began in China and China was late to act, with the first case on November 17th, and action taken only in late January, around 8 to 9 weeks later.
The truth is, China’s “substantial draconian measures” of information control and misinformation may have caused, indirectly, how ever many global deaths as we end up with. The WHO working with China likely decreased our medical preparedness to such an extent that thousands of lives may be lost that could have been prevented. If the U.S. is waging “war” against the virus, China’s deception is a crime against humanity in a sense.
What is the point of having a surveillance state when the data you provide isn’t real, isn’t the true data? Mistrust of the Chinese Government must be at an all-time high as the financial crisis surrounding the pandemic takes the entire world by storm.
Even as an economic shutdown lowers the curve, it’s not clear when, if ever, the Chinese Government will be held accountable for its lack of transparency in the spread of the virus globally. If you fail at containment, it’s your legal and human duty to the international community to give statistics on the spread of the virus that are factual and real.