Supplied Editorial tencent virus china
Supplied Editorial tencent virus china

Deleted pic claims 10-fold virus increase

An image briefly released on Chinese web giant Tencent before being quickly deleted has sparked debate the true tally of coronavirus victims and whether it is much higher than official statistics show.

On Saturday evening Tencent posted on its virus tracker that the confirmed number of cases was registered at 154,023 - more than ten times higher than the official figure at the time, Taiwan News reported.

MORE: Inside the Aussie escape from Wuhan

The number of suspected cases was nearly 80,000 - around four times the official figure the English language paper said.

Minutes later, the site was updated to reflect official government numbers, however web users noted it was the third time such a correction had been made.

It led to speculation over whether a coding problem had caused the error or if the number of cases is being deliberately concealed.

So far, official statistics show 24,631 cases of the virus have been recorded with 493 deaths and 1030 people recovered.

Multiple sources from inside Wuhan have raised doubts about the official figures including those working on the medical front lines. One source said official figures are already 48 hours old after doctors have to wait for results.

Many patients are not treated in hospitals and one official said there are not enough kits in the city to test everyone for the disease.

This week Chinese University of Hong Kong professor David Hui-Shu-choeng said the official tally could be the "tip of the iceberg" as it only reflected those who were in hospital.

"There are many community cases that remain undiagnosed - unlike in Hong Kong, where cases are more carefully handled, including the mild ones. Of the 15 confirmed cases [in Hong Kong], 10 of [the patients] didn't even need to be put on oxygen," Hui told the South China Morning Post

"So we're talking about different denominators here. For an actual picture, one usually has to wait until after the outbreak settles for a general population, zero-prevalence study to be carried out - where blood tests would reflect the number of positive cases containing the antibody without presenting the symptoms," Hui said.


Many of those treated in Wuhan are being treated outside hospital. Picture: Xiong Qi/Xinhua via AP.
Many of those treated in Wuhan are being treated outside hospital. Picture: Xiong Qi/Xinhua via AP.



Authorities around the world are scrambling to contain the virus, however much remains unknown about the disease and how it spreads.

China has blocked 50 million people from leaving Wuhan and nearby areas, with a growing number told to remain in their apartments in other cities leading to severe economic disruption in China and around the world.

As Beijing's authoritarian leadership faces questions over having kept its citizens in the dark for weeks before infections started to explode, other countries are trying to set up effective quarantines to stop a possible pandemic.

Africa is a serious concern for health authorities where the World Health Organisation (WHO) is reporting slow progress equipping countries with the means to test for the virus.

A plane carrying 167 Moroccan passengers, mostly students, arrived Sunday near Casablanca. They will be quarantined for 20 days in two hospitals in Rabat and Meknes.

In Lagos in Nigeria, authorities asked people arriving from China or other affected countries to practice "unsupervised self-quarantine," which means staying home, minimising contact with family members and monitoring for symptoms.

South Sudan, with one of the world's most fragile health systems following a five-year civil war, recently celebrated the instalment of a single thermal scanner at the arrival area of its airport in its capital, Juba.

WHO has prioritised 13 countries based on factors that include high numbers of travellers from China and other affected nations. One is Ethiopia, where Ethiopian Airlines continues to fly five to seven China flights a day.

The WHO officials said most African countries have resources to isolate people because of measures taken during the ebola outbreak in West Africa that ended in 2016.

But the officials said more protective equipment is needed and because global demand is high, some shortages are expected.

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