Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Virus death toll up as China changes counting methods

Virus death toll up as China changes counting methods

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The virus has had massive ramifications globally since emerging from the central Chinese province of Hubei last month, with many countries banning travellers from China in a bid to stop people spreading the disease. AFP

Virus death toll up as China changes counting methods

China's official death toll and infection numbers from a new coronavirus spiked dramatically on Thursday after authorities changed their counting methods, fuelling concern the epidemic is far worse than being reported.

Two top-ranking politicians overseeing the epicentre of the outbreak were also sacked, adding to questions over China’s handling of the crisis, just hours after President Xi Jinping claimed “positive results” in battling the outbreak.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) also quickly countered Chinese reassurances that the epidemic, which has now officially killed more than 1,350 people in China, would peak in a matter of weeks.

“I think it’s way too early to try to predict the beginning, the middle or the end of this epidemic right now,” said Michael Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies programme.

The virus has had massive ramifications globally since emerging from the central Chinese province of Hubei last month, with many countries banning travellers from China in a bid to stop people spreading the disease.

In Hubei, where tens of millions of people are trapped as part of an unprecedented quarantine effort, 242 new deaths were reported on Thursday.

Another 14,840 people were confirmed to be infected with the virus, with the new cases and deaths by far the biggest one-day increases since the crisis began.

The jumps raised the death toll to 1,355 and the total number of nationwide infections of the virus – officially named Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) – to nearly 60,000.

Hubei authorities said the huge increases were because they had broadened their definition for cases to include people “clinically diagnosed” via lung imaging.

Up until now, authorities had been documenting cases using a more sophisticated laboratory test.

The commission said it looked into past suspected cases and revised their diagnoses, suggesting that older cases were included in Thursday’s numbers.

On Thursday, the leaders of Hubei and Wuhan were sacked, the highest-profile political scalps of the crisis.

Hubei’s two top health officials had already been sacked this week.

Analysts said Hubei’s new methodology to count infections might be for medical reasons and could be because Xi wants officials to be more transparent, but the immediate impact was to sow more distrust.

“Oddly, this now is a moment of greater transparency,” Sam Crane, a political science professor at Williams College in Massachusetts, said.

“It is not clear if the problem up to now, on this issue, was lack of transparency or simply bad medical practice,” Crane said.

Yun Jiang, a China researcher at Australian National University, said the new methodology may be a “practical measure” because Hubei has a shortage of laboratory testing kits.

“I don’t think the numbers are necessarily manipulated for political purposes but the numbers themselves may not be so trustworthy,” Yun said.

Meanwhile, a team of researchers at Imperial College London believe they are among the first to start animal testing of a vaccine for the virus.

They said their ultimate goal was to have an effective and safe way of halting its spread by the end of the year.

“At the moment we have just put the vaccine that we’ve generated from these bacteria into mice,” Imperial College London researcher Paul McKay said in an interview on Monday.

“We’re hoping that over the next few weeks we’ll be able to determine the response that we can see in those mice, in their blood, their antibody response to the coronavirus.”

Scientists across the world are racing to develop a way to stamp out the new strain of a well-known virus that has been successfully combated in the past.

Imperial College London said it cannot be sure how advanced other teams’ research is at the moment.

MOST VIEWED

  • Ministry requests school opening

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport on Thursday said it would request a decision from Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow a small number of schools to reopen next month. Ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha said if the request is granted, higher-standard schools will reopen

  • Kingdom eyes India FTA, China deal set for August

    Cambodia is studying the possibility of establishing a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with India to open a new market with the second-largest regional economy. This comes as an FTA with China is scheduled to be signed next month while similar negotiations with South Korea

  • Judge lands in court after crashing into alleged thief

    Sen Sok district police on Thursday sent a Koh Kong Provincial Court judge to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on manslaughter charges after he crashed his car into a woman riding a motorbike on Wednesday, killing her. District police chief Hour Meng Vang told The

  • Preah Vihear court drops charges against villagers

    The Preah Vihear Provincial Court has dropped all charges against eight ethnic Kuoy villagers who were in a land dispute with the Hengfu Group Sugar Industry Co Ltd since 2014. Wednesday’s decision was made by the judge who tried the case on June 10. The eight

  • Gov’t to boost Siem Reap tourism

    The Ministry of Tourism released the results of an inter-ministerial committee meeting concerning Siem Reap province’s Tourism Development Master Plan for 2020-2035 on Wednesday, revealing the government’s plan to improve the overall tourist landscape there. The meeting was attended by Minister of Tourism

  • Residents ordered to remove structures on Phnom Penh’s canal

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng has ordered authorities to act against the perpetrators who built houses along the Luo 5 canal in Meanchey district. The municipal administration plans to create a committee to solve the matter. The order was given on Wednesday while Sreng led

  • ‘On the offensive’: Cambodia to load up on loans to stimulate economy

    As the dust settles on the economy, Cambodia comes to grips with what needs to be done to turn the economy around, starting with a big shopping list for credit ‘We are going on the offensive,” Vongsey Vissoth, Ministry of Economy and Finance permanent secretary

  • Eighty replacement peacekeepers set for Mali mission despite Covid

    Eighty Cambodian blue helmet soldiers who completed the peacekeeping mission under the UN umbrella in Mali will return to Cambodia on Friday, said the Centre for Peacekeeping Forces spokeswoman Kosal Malida. “To protect their families and communities from the Covid-19 pandemic, the 80 are required to

  • Government set to make up for cancelled April holiday

    The government is set to make up for a five-day Khmer New Year holiday late this month or early next month. The holiday was earlier cancelled due to the onset of Covid-19. The announcement is expected on Friday as the government is studying a range

  • Families told to register for cash handouts

    The government has called on poor families to apply to commune authorities for evaluation to receive financial support during the Covid-19 crisis. A $300 million budget has been planned for implementation within a year. Ministry of Economy and Finance secretary of state Vongsey Visoth said this