Wuhan, the pandemic's ground-zero, may have had 10 times as many COVID-19 cases, a study from China's CDC suggests

  • 10 times as many people in Wuhan may have had COVID-19, China's Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has said.
  • The CDC posted the results of an antibody study of 34,000 people from Wuhan on WeChat on Monday. It is unclear if the study has been peer-reviewed.
  • The study found that as many as 4.4% of the 11 million people who live in the city may have had coronavirus antibodies by April. 
  • As of Monday, there have been 50,354 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wuhan, but the study suggests the real number could be 480,000.
  • China has been accused of covering up the extent of its outbreak and has silenced journalists and doctors who have spoken out.
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The number of COVID-19 cases seen in Wuhan since the pandemic's start could be 10 times as high, China's health agency has said.

A study of 34,000 people in Wuhan, published on Monday by the Chinese Centre for Disease Control (CDC,) found that 4.4% of the 11 million people who live in the city may have coronavirus antibodies before April.

It is unclear if the study has been peer-reviewed, and the results were published on the Chinese messaging site WeChat by the CDC.

As of Monday, there have been 50,354 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wuhan, according to the city's health authority, but the CDC report suggests that the number could be at least 480,000.

The results suggest that Wuhan authorities have vastly underreported, or struggled to identify correctly, cases of COVID-19.

Firefighters disinfect the Wuhan Tianhe International Airport on April 3, 2020 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.Getty Images

The CDC went on to say that the disparity between the high level of infection seen in Wuhan and the low level seen outside Hubei Province shows the 76-day lockdown worked.

Outside Wuhan, in central Hubei Province, only 0.4% percent of people showed evidence of antibodies. The study said that out of 12,000 people surveyed across six provinces outside Hubei, only two people showed signs of coronavirus antibodies. 

"The epidemic control with Wuhan as the main battlefield has successfully and effectively prevented the large-scale spread of the epidemic," the study said.

However, Huang Yanzhong, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Agence France-Presse that the discrepancy might "point to potential underreporting due to the chaos in late January and early February, when a large number of people were not tested or were not tested accurately for COVID-19."

Chinese President Xi Jinping at an event for the 70th anniversary of the Chinese People's Volunteer Army's participation in the Korean War, in Beijing, October 23, 2020.REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Throughout the pandemic, China has been accused of covering up the true extent of its outbreak, including by silencing doctors and journalists.

On Monday, Zhang Zhan, a freelance journalist, was jailed for reporting from Wuhan during the onset of the city's outbreak, the BBC said.

An investigation by The Associated Press also found that China knew the coronavirus could become a pandemic in mid-January, but for six days claimed publicly that there was no evidence it could spread among humans.

China also significantly underreported the number of coronavirus cases in the early stages of the pandemic. On February 10, China reported 2,478 new cases, but officials privately recorded 5,918 new cases, according to CNN.

A woman from Wuhan who is suing the Chinese government for what she said was covering up facts about the coronavirus and allowing it to spread has taken her case to the Supreme Court of Hubei.

On Monday, outside China, Russia said that its COVID-19 death toll was actually three times higher than stated.

Tatiana Golikova, Russia's deputy prime minister, said that 81% of 229,700 new deaths recorded between January and November this year were "due to Covid," the Guardian said.

The update puts Russia's death toll at 186,000, the third-worst in the world.


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