Good question, no? Here’s the proper way to approach any claims by China’s leadership at any time, but especially after the past few months. If Beijing says, “Good morning,” immediately open a window to check it out.
The Washington Post reports that China now insists that they have resolved the coronavirus pandemic, even in its Wuhan epicenter. The Post isn’t entirely buying it, however:
China is winning its “people’s war” against the coronavirus. That’s the message being sent by Chinese leaders and diplomats and amplified by the Communist Party-controlled press.
A central part of the narrative is that Wuhan, the onetime center of the outbreak and the site of a recent visit from Chinese leader Xi Jinping, has stopped transmission in its tracks. It went five days without reporting new, local cases. On Monday, Wuhan reported one new case.
In a country emerging from a crushing lockdown — and a world looking for answers — lower case counts appear to be genuinely good news. Other countries have closely watched the crisis in Wuhan for lessons on how best to control local outbreaks.
But Wuhan’s near-zero count is being called into question by independent reporting and received with suspicion from experts. It underscores wider issues across China. The country’s overall coronavirus numbers have been met with some skepticism since the first signs of crisis.
“It is clear that the situation in Wuhan has improved dramatically,” writes Emily Rauhala, pointing out less crowded hospitals and a revival of public life. But is that an accurate view of what’s happening in Hubei? RealClearInvestigations’ Richard Bernstein writes that all we’re seeing is a carefully controlled narrative originating from Beijing, one that is being cooked to allow international pressure on China to recede. It has as much to do with the truth as China’s attempts to pass off COVID-19 as a US disease unleashed by the American military:
Some reports have chipped away at least at China’s most extreme claim of success. On the very days when the national health authority was announcing that there were no new local infections, social media accounts in China were circulating photographs of “urgent notices” put up in residential areas announcing new cases and warning people to stay home.
EBC News, a Taiwan cable news network, broadcast two such photographs dated March 20, which is two days after China reported there were no new local Wuhan infections. One of the notices, after announcing the new cases, read: “Do not go out, or gather, wash your hands, be careful, hold on, hold on, and hold on some more.”
EBC also broadcast video of a hospital in Wuhan that it says was taken on March 19 and provided by a local Wuhan journalist. The video shows a reception area crowded with people, some of them on gurneys with IV drips, and health care workers in full protective gear, white suits, face masks and goggles.
According to the Taiwan commentators, the reporter had accompanied a friend who was seeking care for his sick mother, but the hospital, while allowing patients to stay in the waiting area, was refusing to admit any of them. When the reporter asked the reason, a health worker at the hospital told him the hospital was under pressure from the central government to report no new cases.
That doesn’t sound like a dramatic improvement; it sounds as if the lockdown should continue. It won’t, though, at least not if the current plan continues, although that contains one notable exception. China plans to reopen domestic air travel out of Wuhan on April 8 as scheduled, but not to Beijing, MSN’s Moneyworld reported earlier today, emphasis mine:
China on Wednesday downgraded the risk level of the coronavirus in its epicentre Wuhan from high to medium and resumed bus services within the city for the first time since the nine-week lockdown.
China has decided to lift the three-month lockdown on more than 56 million people in the central Hubei province.
However, the prolonged lockdown of Hubei’s capital Wuhan will end on April 8, lifting the mass quarantine over the city with a population of over 11 million.
Also, Wuhan will resume commercial flights from April 8, excluding international flights and flights to and from Beijing.
Why doesn’t Beijing want flights from Wuhan? If it’s safe enough for Wuhan flights to go to other parts of the country, a ban on Beijing as a destination makes no sense. That seems to signal that the Communist Party officials don’t trust the numbers they themselves are promulgating. Another outbreak in Beijing would be very difficult to keep quiet and would give lie to all these claims from China that they have won Great Patriotic Victories against the Virus That Didn’t Come From Us, No Sir.
Nothing we hear from China is reliable on this disease, nothing at all. Kudos to the Washington Post for treating these claims with considerable skepticism, a habit that the rest of the media should start to develop ASAP.
Update: Speaking of skepticism, it looks like we should be skeptical about China’s medical assistance too. Both Spain and the Czech Republic have claimed that China’s tests fail to detect positive cases:
Microbiology experts in Spain are warning that the rapid coronavirus tests that the country bought from China are not consistently detecting positive cases.
The error was discovered as Spain is in the grip of the second-worst coronavirus outbreak in the world, second only to Italy in the number of reported deaths.
Studies on the tests done in Spain found that they have only 30% sensitivity, which means they only correctly identify 30% of people with the virus, sources told Spanish newspaper El País.
Those sources told the newspaper that the tests should have a sensitivity of more than 80%. The US Centers for Disease Control says that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires rapid tests for influenza to have 80% sensitivity.
A Czech news site on Monday (March 23) revealed that 80 percent of the much-touted traunch of Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) rapid test kits “donated” from China are faulty, forcing healthcare workers to rely on conventional laboratory tests.
On March 18, as is the case with many of its other quasi charitable acts, Chinese state-run mouthpieces used the verbs “supplied” and “delivered” to give the impression that the communist regime was donating 150,000 portable, rapid COVID-19 test kits to the Czech Republic. In fact, the central European nation’s Health Ministry paid some 14 million crowns (US$546,000) for 100,000 test kits, while the country’s Interior Ministry footed the bill for another 50,000, reported Expats.cz.
That might account for the decline in China’s confirmed cases of COVID-19, no?