China’s Wuhan raises coronavirus death toll by 50 per cent; civilians seek explanations
In a notification, the Wuhan municipal headquarters for the COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control said the revision in the deaths and cases addresses incorrect reporting, delays and omissions of cases.
The Chinese central city of Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus originated, has revised its COVID-19 death toll up by 1,209, to 3,869 -- an increase of almost 50 per cent. According to state-run CCTV, Wuhan also revised up confirmed cases by 325 to 50,333. It said the revision in the deaths and cases addresses incorrect reporting, delays and omissions of cases.
This comes as people at the epicentre of China’s crisis look for explanations -- from the treatment of whistle-blowers to real case numbers.
In a notification, the Wuhan municipal headquarters for the COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control said the revisions were made in accordance with related laws and regulations as well as the principle of being responsible for history, the people and the dead.
Four reasons for the data discrepancies were given in the notification:
-- A surging number of patients at the early stage of the epidemic overwhelmed medical resources and the admission capacity of medical institutions. Some patients died at home without having been treated in hospitals.
-- During the height of their treatment efforts, hospitals were operating beyond their capacity and medical staffs were preoccupied with saving and treating patients, resulting in belated, missed and mistaken reporting.
-- Due to a rapid increase of designated hospitals able to treat COVID-19 patients, including those administered by ministries, Hubei Province, Wuhan City and its districts, those affiliated to companies, as well as private hospitals and makeshift hospitals, and a few medical institutions were not linked to the epidemic information network and failed to report their data in time.
-- The registered information of some of the deceased patients was incomplete, and there were repetitions and mistakes in the reporting.
For Wuhan’s citizens, one of the biggest questions related to the pandemic is that what happened to the early-warning disease control system that China developed and set up after the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) 17 years earlier.
Tian, a sales representative for a drone company, is one of dozens of people in Wuhan, who shared some of the most dramatic moments of their lives as the epidemic raged in Wuhan.
He also wanted to know why the first Wuhan doctors, including the late whistle-blower Li Wenliang, who raised the alarm about the virus were silenced by local police.
“China spent millions of dollars on the early-warning system for infectious diseases. Why did it fail?” Tian said. “We had whistle-blowers, why were they reprimanded?
“If there’s no reflection about this, another crisis will come and it will become even more severe.”
In the months since the emergence of COVID-19, China has slowly brought down the number of cases nationwide. Finally, after 76 days, it lifted many of the major lockdown restrictions on the city on April 8.
But critics, in home and abroad, have pointed to clear signs of a government cover-up in the beginning of the outbreak, reported the South China Morning Post. Some of them blame that on China’s Communist Party and President Xi Jinping personally.
Xi himself had acknowledged that lessons needed to be learned, but that has been limited to disease control and the illegal wildlife trade, with the virus thought to have jumped to humans from an animal, possibly linked to a Wuhan wet market, said the report.
But Wuhan residents have reserved their criticism for the mistreatment of early whistle-blowers, as well as the lack of credibility of lower-level government officials, while raising broader issues of transparency and accountability.
“The thing that touched me the most was the death of Dr Li Wenliang,” said Wang, a doctor with the Zhongnan Hospital in Wuhan. “As a fellow doctor, I think he’s a great man.”
Wang said the pandemic showed how China’s political system had marginalised medical expertise, but he now expected it to change for the better.
“The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is not a government body and has no decision-making power. This is a major flaw of the system compared to those of other countries.”
Similar concerns bother Stephen Cheng, a 30-year-old Wuhan resident whose pregnant wife and father contracted the coronavirus. “If the decision-makers ever visited or talked to frontline doctors, they would’ve known how many patients were there and they would have taken precautions earlier,” said he said.
Cheng’s wife and father gradually recovered, but he became curious about how other countries tackled the outbreak as it spread. “Other countries have their problems, too, but I think they do a better job in respecting individuals,” he said.
Zhang Zhonglin, a hotel owner in Wuhan, said that municipal government gave no warning about the crisis until a lockdown was imposed on January 23.
“There were obviously a number of (COVID-19) cases in December and there were some whistle-blowers,” he said. “There was definitely government inaction then, and we volunteered and acted on our own to help.”