Wuhan coronavirus death toll has been raised by 50% - here’s why

The initial undercount of deaths was attributed to how overwhelmed the health system was (Photo: Getty Images)The initial undercount of deaths was attributed to how overwhelmed the health system was (Photo: Getty Images)
The initial undercount of deaths was attributed to how overwhelmed the health system was (Photo: Getty Images)

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Lockdown restrictions in Wuhan were officially lifted on 8 April, almost three months after they first came into force.

Shopping malls, road and rail connections have now reopened, and some people have been permitted to return to work.

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The lockdown was lifted after the city reported a significant fall in the number of infections, but new figures have revealed that at least 50 per cent more people died in Wuhan than previously confirmed.

How many people have died in Wuhan?

The state media have attributed the initial undercount of deaths in China’s virus epicentre to how overwhelmed the health system was in coping with thousands of sick people.

New figures reveal an addition of 1,290 victims, raising Wuhan’s death toll to 3,869 - the most in China - increasing the national total to more than 4,600.

The figures may confirm suspicions that significantly more people died in Wuhan than was previously announced.

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The city of 11 million people also saw its total confirmed cases rise by 325 to 50,333, which accounts for around two-thirds of China’s 82,367 announced number of infections.

Why were the reported death tolls wrong?

The official Xinhua News Agency quoted an unidentified official at Wuhan's epidemic prevention and control headquarters as blaming an overwhelmed health system for the inaccurate reporting.

The official was quoted as stating: “Due to the insufficiency in admission and treatment capability, a few medical institutions failed to connect with the disease prevention and control system in time, while hospitals were overloaded and medics were overwhelmed with patients.

"As a result, belated, missed and mistaken reporting occurred.”

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The update figures were compiled by comparing data from Wuhan's epidemic prevention and control system, the city funeral service, the municipal hospital authority, and nucleic acid testing to "remove double-counted cases and fill in missed cases".

Deaths that occurred outside of hospitals had not previously been registered, while some medical institutions had confirmed cases but reported them later, or not at all.

Has China been covering up the scale of the outbreak?

China has long been under suspicion of inaccurately reporting the scale of the outbreak, particularly as there were several days in January when no new cases or deaths were announced.

This has led to accusations that Chinese officials were seeking to minimise the impact of the virus and failing to seize opportunities to bring it under control sooner.

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A group of medical workers, including a doctor who later died of the virus, were reportedly threatened by police for trying to alert people to the virus on social media.

The risk of human-to-human transmission was also downplayed, even while infected people entered hospitals across the country and the first case outside China was found in Thailand.

The World Health Organisation has also come under fire for defending China's handling of the outbreak.

US President Donald Trump recently made the decision to cut funding to the WHO over its handling of the health crisis.

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He accused the global body of “severely mismanaging and covering up” the spread of the virus after it emerged in China, despite the fact it was declared a public health emergency on 30 January.

Mr Trump said the WHO must be held accountable for promoting “disinformation” about the virus following the initial outbreak in Wuhan, claiming it could have been contained at its source if the organisation had been better at investigating the early reports in China.

Chinese officials have denied accusations of a cover up, stating their reports were both accurate and timely.


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