Report: China’s Coronavirus Data Off by Millions of Cases

TOPSHOT - A medical staff member (C) wearing protective clothing to help stop the spread of a deadly virus which began in the city, walks at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan on January 24, 2020. - Chinese authorities rapidly expanded a mammoth quarantine effort aimed at containing a …
HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images

A report published by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) this week denounced China’s official coronavirus statistics as mathematically improbable and estimated the true number of infections from the epidemic in China was about 2.9 million, over a hundred times the total of 81,907 infections claimed by Beijing as of Friday.

“Population size makes it almost certain that China’s disinformation about what happened outside the original outbreak city of Wuhan is worse than the disinformation about what happened inside,” the AEI report contended.

The report quoted figures from Chinese state media in January to demonstrate that the number of people who left the outbreak city of Wuhan and its surrounding Hubei province before the city and province were locked down – a wave of travelers consistent with the Lunar New Year season in previous years – would have infected far more people than the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) claims. 

Even assuming those figures from Chinese state media were on the high side, possibly because Wuhan officials were eager at the time to demonstrate the enigmatic illness they were passing off as a minor annoyance was not interfering with daily life or the holiday season, the lowest estimates have over a million people leaving the hot zone before travel was restricted – many of them probably carrying the highly infectious coronavirus, which can lurk inside people who do not appear sick, each of whom could be capable of infecting five or six other people.

No other city in China was taking any real precautions when many of those travelers departed from Wuhan, because the CCP was actively concealing the existence of the coronavirus and harshly punishing doctors who tried to warn about it. 

The outrageous mendacity of the CCP prevents us from knowing exactly when the coronavirus first began spreading among the human population, but it was at least four weeks before travel from Hubei province was restricted, and possibly as much as nine weeks. The rest of the world has now learned to its dismay how rapidly the Wuhan virus can spread in less than four weeks.

AEI noted that China has also been less than forthcoming with detailed information about exactly how many people left Wuhan before the lockdown was imposed, and every day matters when calculating the spread of such an infectious disease, but contemporaneous Chinese media and foreign eyewitness accounts give us reason to suspect there was a great deal of panicked travel out of Wuhan shortly before the city was sealed off, which would be the worst-case scenario for plotting the true extent of infections across the rest of China.

Using the best available dataset from South Korea, a far more honest country that experienced one of the first massive outbreaks beyond China’s borders, AEI argued that for China’s official count of infections to be accurate, the coronavirus would have to be less than half as infectious as the lowest estimate from reputable epidemiologists and virtually none of the migrants who left Wuhan in early 2020 or late 2019 could have been carrying it. Those assumptions are, as the AEI report put it, “not reasonable.”

China’s already absurd claims look even more ridiculous when remembering that China claims 67,803 of its 81,907 coronavirus cases occurred inside Hubei province – which means less than 15,000 people were infected across the rest of China’s huge land mass and teeming population. As AEI pointed out, in every other country on Earth, it took less than a week to surge past 15,000 cases before stringent quarantine measures were put in place. Lockdowns did not begin appearing across most of China until the first week in February, which gave travelers and migrant workers from Wuhan at least 11 days to circulate while the virus was blooming.

That was plenty of time to spread far more infections than the CCP is willing to admit. Italy and Germany saw 27,000 coronavirus infections triple in 11 days, even with more extensive travel restrictions in place than anything practiced in China during late January. Spain’s infections quadrupled in 11 days.

“It has become common to hear assertions that Chinese cultural superiority enables arithmetic-defying results,” AEI observed. “Nonetheless, here is a bit more arithmetic: Merely the top four cities for the migrant flights from Wuhan in the state media article match Italy’s population. Henan’s population alone is 50 percent larger. In total, China ex-Hubei is nearly 23 times more populous than Italy.”

Using Italy’s infection data, AEI calculated that even with a “superior” response by China factored in, and a substantially lower number of people leaving Hubei province than China’s own state-controlled media reported, and an improbably low 21 days for the virus to circulate before lockdowns were imposed, China would have nearly 2.9 million cases.

“Cutting yet more days off circulation time, to simulate a miraculous Chinese response, would reduce the estimate to only 150 times larger than the barely 15,000 cases Beijing reports,” AEI added, referring to the number of cases China claims to have diagnosed outside of Hubei province.

Anticipating criticism that China could not possibly hide millions of coronavirus cases, the AEI report pointed out that China’s immense population probably deals with over 100 million cases of respiratory illness per year, giving it plenty of diagnostic space (and hospital beds) to hide coronavirus patients – and lots of mortuary space to hide fatalities. 

The authoritarian regime in Beijing employs millions of human censors, plus artificial intelligence to control speech and suppress information. China routinely lies about the state of its economy, and it doesn’t even pretend to measure unemployment, so it also has plenty of information space to conceal the shocks from mass infections and harsh responses that dominate headlines in other countries.

The AEI report concluded by noting the Chinese Communist Party has worked hard to make outside estimates of the pandemic difficult and imprecise. The choice for outside observers is to accept calculations using the lowest realistic factors available, which puts the true number of cases close to three million, or “you can believe that 1.2 million travelers from ground zero of a pandemic, some freely circulating for weeks, resulted in national contagion of a little over 15,000 cases.”

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