Wuhan rectifies death toll following conventional post-epidemic review

By Zhao Yusha and Chen Qingqing Source:Global Times Published: 2020/4/17 11:09:05 Last Updated: 2020/4/17 20:53:39

The night before Leishenshan Hospital of Wuhan closed with zero new patients on Wednesday, a doctor looks after a patient infected with the novel coronavirus and once in critical condition. Although their nucleic tests have turned negative, four patients were transferred to Zhongnan Hospital for treatment of other basic diseases. Photo: Cui Meng/GT

The city of Wuhan has corrected its COVID-19 death toll to 3,869 on Friday, an increase of 1,290 compared with its previous figure, after local government altered its counting method, which analysts said reflects the Chinese government's spirit of seeking truth from facts and respect for every deceased life during the pandemic. 

The new death toll puts the fatality rate in Wuhan at 7.7 percent. After the rectification in Wuhan, the death toll in the Chinese mainland hit 4,632 from the previous 3,342.

The Wuhan government said it has now included the deaths of those who failed to be admitted to hospital at an early stage due to strained resources. Those who were not admitted to hospital were not previously included in the city's death toll as hospitals were overloaded and medical workers preoccupied. 

The city government also said that as designated hospitals in Wuhan increased rapidly, several failed to report information in a timely manner. Other issues like deaths counted more than once and misreported deaths also contributed to the correction to Wuhan's death toll.

The new figure was generated after Wuhan authorities compared and corrected data from the city's nucleic acid testing system, places where coronavirus patients were reported, fever clinics, hospitals, Fangcang makeshift hospitals and isolation points. Government officials also screened people in prisons, nursing homes, community compounds and other locations. 

Through thorough screening, Wuhan reported 325 additional confirmed cases and corrected its total COVID-19 case number to 50,333. Its death toll saw an increase of 1,290, bringing the total to 3,869.

Rectifying the data of infectious diseases is an international practice, Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at Friday's media briefing. Data released by Wuhan reflects the open, transparent and realistic attitude, which is responsible to history, the people and the deceased, Zhao said.

This alteration is a routine move after major infectious diseases and pandemics, Wang Peiyu, deputy head of Peking University's school of public health, told the Global Times. To better understand the outbreak from a scientific perspective, authorities have further verified, corrected and confirmed released data, reflecting the Chinese government's spirit of seeking truth.

"Rectification of the number shows the government's responsible attitude toward history, its people, coronavirus patients and those who died during the pandemic," wrote one netizen on his WeChat account. 

Many netizens say they were prepared for an alteration to the city's death toll due to chaos in the early stages. The new number was within their expectations, and they have acknowledged the government's responsible attitude. 

"In the early stages of the outbreak, we knew little about how to handle it. It's normal that people make mistakes when they rush to do something," he said, noting that authorities quickly tackled loopholes and corrected mistakes, which did not affect the country's overall fight against the coronavirus.

The Wuhan government's working group to steer COVID-19 prevention work said that lives should be greatly cherished. Every person who lost his or her life in the pandemic is mourned by the family and the entire city. The group offered its sincere condolences to those who died during the pandemic. 

Western media like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post have sensationalized Wuhan's death toll, with some claiming Chinese authorities have been downplaying the impact by hiding the country's real death count. Wang noted that China, a country with a large population and geographically vast, has adopted the strictest measures to contain the virus spread, leading to much lower death toll and infection numbers compared to Europe and the US.

A fabricated number can be easily exposed in China, as a falsified death toll is not something that could be hidden, said analysts.

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