US intelligence has suggested that China may have beautified its Covid 19 statistics. What should we think of the Chinese data?
That China may have manipulated the data of the coronavirus epidemic did not seem to bother the US president. “The numbers seem a bit light-weight and I’m still nice when I say that,” said Donald Trump at his daily briefing at the White House on Wednesday.
“As blind as the rest of the world”
At that point, Trump had already received a report from the US secret services, which apparently comes to a much clearer verdict. As a result, China is said to have beautified its Covid 19 statistics. Far more Chinese than officially stated have become infected with the virus and have died from it.
The Chinese numbers are “fake” , the Bloomberg news agency quotes several anonymous US officials. The New York Times, referring to intelligence circles, added that the Chinese government itself does not know the true numbers and is “as blind as the rest of the world” in this regard.
These claims cannot be verified because the details and methodology of the report have not been made public. Nevertheless, the findings fuel skepticism as to whether the Chinese figures can be correct. If Italy now has 115,000 cases and nearly 14,000 deaths – can it be that China has only 3300 fatalities with 82,000 cases? Italy has one of the best Medical facilities, especially in the Lombardy region with Milan as being the capital.
How many people died there from the epidemic is not just a politically explosive question. A more accurate picture of the course of the epidemic in China would be important to better understand the spread of the disease in the rest of the world and how dangerous it is.
Mistrust has caused China to change the definition of who is counted as a corona case several times during the epidemic. In some cases there were plausible explanations for this.
On December 31, China first contacted the World Health Organization (WHO). Cases of enigmatic pneumonia increased in the city of Wuhan. In the meantime, more than a million people worldwide have been shown to be ill, the situation changes from day to day.
At first, only a corona patient was registered who showed symptoms as well as tested positive for the pathogen. In the first chaotic weeks, this undoubtedly resulted in numbers that were too low.
The rush overwhelmed the laboratories
In Wuhan in particular , overcrowded hospitals had to send many sick people home without a diagnosis. The rush also overwhelmed the labs, which lacked staff. The newly developed virus tests were not yet fully developed and were often unreliable. Sometimes it took up to six hours to get a result. Since then, the waiting time for some test kits has been reduced to half an hour .
To remedy the situation, the authorities changed the definition on February 12: Patients were now considered confirmed cases without positive test results, provided they had the clinical symptoms of Covid-19. A CT scan of the lungs could now also serve as evidence. As a result, the number skyrocketed by more than 15,000 new infections in a single day.
This rapid increase in the number of cases was embarrassing for the regime and Jiang Chaoliang was replaced the same day as the party secretary of the Hubei province. The leadership hoped for more effective crisis management from his successor Ying Yong, previously Mayor of Shanghai.
A week after Ying’s arrival, the definition changed again. Since the test capacities had been expanded in the meantime, only patients with symptoms and positive test results should be considered as confirmed cases.
It is only since last Wednesday that China has also included so-called asymptomatic infections in its statistics . This affects patients who have tested positive but show no signs of the disease.
Improvised hospital in Wuhan
It has to be said that the Chinese leadership had to react to a rapidly changing situation, but it is also clear that head of state Xi Jinping expected his subordinates to win the “people’s war” against the virus he had declared.
The numbers should go down – so they go down
China’s cadres are in a tricky situation: on the one hand, Prime Minister Li Keqiang has warned them not to hide new infections just to prettify the statistics. On the other hand, Beijing expects the number of new infections to be close to zero.
“Plants had to keep their machines running, even if they didn’t produce anything”
In authoritarian systems like China, the pressure to comply with political directives often leads to lower levels only reporting data that their superiors want to see and hear and often enough, the Beijing leadership doesn’t believe their own statistics.
Even during the corona crisis, economists tried to get an idea of the situation using alternative indicators.
As a result, some cadres tinkered with the replacement indicators: at least three cities in Zhejiang province required factories to use a minimum of electricity at the beginning of March in order to simulate a revival of the economy. Works had to keep their machines running , even if they didn’t produce anything.
Residents in Wuhan collect their relatives’ ashes
An article by Caixin magazine attracted great attention: its reporters visited a crematorium in Wuhan, where residents released from house arrest are now allowed to collect the ashes of their relatives who died during the epidemic.
There the journalists met a truck driver who frankly told them that he had delivered 5000 urns in just two days. According to official figures, 2,535 people died of Covid-19 in Wuhan. In addition, the urn delivery went to only one crematorium but Wuhan operates at least seven.
It is unclear how many urns were actually given and how many cremations actually took place. They also say nothing about the cause of death for those who have been cremated. Since the epidemic broke out in Wuhan, people have not only died of Covid-19 there, but, as in normal times, also of old age, cancer, heart attacks and other diseases and accidents.
It is almost certain that the official figures are significantly too low and to what extent remains a mystery.
[corona_charts type=”general” country=”China” width=”100%” title=”%2$s Total Covid-19 infections in China”]
Malaysia’s King Rejects PM’s Request to Declare State of Emergency
Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah has rejected Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s request to declare a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The royal palace announced the decision in a statement Sunday, saying the king “is of the opinion that there is no need at the moment for His Majesty to declare an emergency in the country.”
The statement also said the king is pleased with Prime Minister Muhyiddin’s handling of the pandemic, and called on all politicians to stop any campaigning that could seriously damage the government’s stability.
Muhyiddin later issued a statement saying he welcomed the king’s advice and would discuss it with his cabinet.
Had the king approved Muhyiddin’s request, the state of emergency would have suspended Parliament before he was scheduled to present a budget in early November. Failure to pass the budget would be the equivalent to a no-confidence vote against Muhyiddin and put pressure on him to call for a general election.
Muhyiddin has been prime minister since February, when he was chosen by King Abdullah after then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad unexpectedly resigned and his government collapsed. Veteran opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim met with the king last month and said he gave him the names of 120 members of the 222-seat parliament who are ready to defect from the prime minister’s razor-thin ruling coalition.
But the royal palace later released a statement saying Anwar only told the king the number of lawmakers who would support his takeover bid without revealing their identities.
European Markets Nosedive Monday as Global Coronavirus Cases Rise
European markets were falling Monday as investors appeared increasingly uncertain about the outlook of the global economy due to a resurgence of coronavirus cases across Europe and the United States.
Britain’s benchmark FTSE index was down 0.2% at the midway point of the trading day. The CAC-40 index in France lost 0.4%, and Germany’s DAX index plunged 2.2%.
Markets in the Asia-Pacific rim ended mostly lower earlier Monday. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei index finished its trading session down 22 points, but unchanged percentage-wise.
The S&P/ASX index in Australia lost 0.1%. Shanghai’s Composite index was 0.8% lower. South Korea’s KOSPI index dropped 0.7%, while in South Asia, Mumbai’s Sensex plunged 1.3%.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index gained 0.5%, and in Taiwan, the TSEC index finished up 10 points, but was unchanged percentage-wise.
In commodities trading, gold was selling at $1,906.20, up one point. U.S. crude oil was selling at $39.10 per barrel, down 1.8%, and Brent crude was selling at $41.05 per barrel, down 1.7%.
All three major U.S. indices were trending negatively in futures trading as investors awaited the opening bell on Wall Street.
Australia’s Second-Largest City to Begin Emerging from Strict COVID-19 Lockdown
After more than three months under stifling restrictions imposed in response to a second wave of COVID-19 cases, life in Australia’s second-largest city is slowly about to return to normal.
Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews announced Monday that Melbourne’s five million citizens will be able to leave their homes effective Tuesday at midnight, and that all cafes, restaurants, bars, shops and hotels will be allowed to reopen.
The announcement comes as Melbourne and the surrounding Victoria state recorded its first 24-hour period without any new coronavirus infections since June 9. The state had been plagued by a dramatic spike of new COVID-19 cases, peaking in August when daily new cases rose above 700. The resurgence of new cases has been blamed on security lapses at hotels where travelers were being quarantined after traveling overseas.
With zero new cases, Premier Andrews told reporters that “we are able to say that now is the time to open up. Now is the time to congratulate every single Victorian for staying the course.”
Andrews also said that travel restrictions limiting people to no further than 25 kilometers from their home will end on November 8, which will allow people in Melbourne to travel to Victoria’s rural areas.
Testing in Kashgar, China
Health authorities in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province have launched a widespread testing effort in Kashgar after 137 new asymptomatic COVID-19 infections were discovered. The new cases were detected after a 17-year-old girl was found to be asymptomatic. The other asymptomatic cases have been traced to a factory where the girl’s parents work. Authorities say nearly 3 million people in Kashgar have been tested since the outbreak was detected.
Xinjiang was placed under a brief but tight lockdown period after a cluster of coronavirus cases was detected in August.
On the vaccine front
Meanwhile, British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca announced Monday that a vaccine it has developed in cooperation with the University of Oxford has produced a similar immune response in both younger and older adults, with adverse responses lower among the elderly.
The announcement by the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant comes the same day The Financial Times newspaper said early reports from testing showed the experimental vaccine, dubbed AZD1222, produces a robust immune response in elderly people, who are among the highest risk from the disease.
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