Covid-19 Crisis

500,000 people could have been infected in Wuhan virus outbreak

A report by China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention reveals a chronic case of ‘under-reporting’

Allegations that China covered up the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan have been reinforced by research released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC data showed that people initially infected by the deadly virus could have topped 500,000 or 10 times higher than the reported numbers.

Before the study was released earlier this week, the official figures stood at 50,354.

“Samples were taken from 34,000 people in Wuhan, as well as the broader Hubei province, Beijing, Shanghai and four other provinces,” the Center for Disease Control said in a statement on WeChat, a Twitter-like social media platform.

Nearly 5% of the population in Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic last year, had antibodies for the virus, the report stated.

The facts:

  • Wuhan’s population is estimated at 11 million, which suggests that almost 500,000 people may have had the virus.
  • That would correspond to infection rates estimated in similar reports such as the serological study in Spain published last month.
  • Many could be asymptomatic cases that were not counted in China’s official data.
  • Asymptomatic carriers are people who never develop symptoms but can still transmit the virus.
  • The study was released just weeks before a team of international scientists from the World Health Organisation visits Wuhan to investigate the origins of Covid-19.

What the CDC said: “The investigation found that the positive rate of new coronavirus antibodies in the community population in Wuhan was 4.43% [resulting in 500,000 infections].”

Reaction to the news: “Exactly how much [was] missed we don’t exactly know, but this gives us an idea that [they] missed quite a bit. But there might also be under-reporting,” Ian Mackay, an associated professor at the University of Queensland in Australia, told the South China Morning Post.

China Factor comment: It seems a strange coincidence that the study was released just weeks before the WHO team heads to Wuhan to investigate the origins of the Covid-19 outbreak. It also came out on the same day that Zhang Zhan, a former lawyer, who documented the unfolding crisis in the city, was sentenced to four years in jail for her social media reports. Nearly 12 months later, questions still remain about how the ruling Communist Party handled the initial response to the epidemic.

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