International Asia HK journalist stirs up Twitter debate about actual number of people...

HK journalist stirs up Twitter debate about actual number of people infected with coronavirus in China

Many disagree that there has been a change in the definition of confirmed cases

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A writer for Hong Kong’s Apple Daily has sparked an argument on Twitter concerning China’s definition of confirmed cases of Covid-19, the new name of the novel coronavirus outbreak in the country and beyond.

On Monday (Feb 10), Mr Alex Lam pointed out a change in the definition after noticing that the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19, which originated in Wuhan, a city in central China, had gone down in some provinces and cities.

He highlighted a section of a document from China’s National Health Commission on Feb 7 which changed the definition of a “confirmed” case of Covid-19. The change meant that anyone who tested positive for the virus but did not show any symptoms would not be counted as a “confirmed” case anymore.

Mr Lam added: “The new rule has triggered provinces to find cases that can be deducted from the total no. of confirmed cases. Heilongjiang has axed 13 cases from their tally stating the new definition. #Hubei has deducted 87 cases today, but authorities did not explain why.
“Over 100 cases have been deducted over the past 2 days. The concerning problem is that authorities do not disclose the no. of symptom-less infected patients after they count them separately. There will be no way of knowing the exact magnitude of the outbreak.”
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He added that China’s definition of “confirmed” cases is at odds with that of the World Health Organization.

@WHO has put out an interim guidance on #WuhanCoronavirus surveillance last month and it has a definition for Confirmed Case: person with laboratory confirmation irrespective of clinical signs and symptoms. It is very clear.”

Mr Lam added: “I feel the need to clarify that this is not speculation based on the wording of the document. This report by state media Xinhua showed Heilongjiang authorities explicitly explained that 13 lab-positive cases were deducted because they had no symptoms.”    

While the Apple Daily writer’s tweets were widely retweeted, and even featured in The Telegraph in Britian, some commented that Mr Lam had got the information wrong.

A number of netizens said Mr Lam had misunderstood the passage.

Others said that he may be willfully misleading readers.

And yet others attempted to clear up what the document actually said.

/TISG

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