Coronavirus infections in China feared to be more widespread than officially reported

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January 23, 2020 00:07:48

According to reports, the hospitals in the Chinese city of Wuhan deal with a large number of sick patients, which increases the fear that the new coronavirus will spread faster than official reports suggest.

Key points:

  • Authorities have confirmed 440 cases of the virus and nine deaths.
  • However, the medical staff in Wuhan says they are overwhelmed with sick patients.
  • ABC understands that only one hospital is treating about 300 patients.

This occurs when the state newspaper Global Times in an editorial seemed to criticize the authorities in Wuhan for delaying in reporting that the virus had spread to medical workers, a key signal of person-to-person transmission and potential “super propagators.”

The new coronavirus has so far infected some 440 people in China, the country’s National Health Commission said Wednesday, with nine confirmed deaths.

That was a jump of about 300 infections and six deaths confirmed yesterday.

Authorities say they have also confirmed 2,197 cases in which people have had close contact with patients.

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus includes dozens of people in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong Province and Zhejiang Province, mostly in the central province of Hubei, where Wuhan City is located.

However, according to messages from a private WeChat group for Chinese medical professionals seen by ABC, a hospital in Wuhan has been overwhelmed by patients, with almost 300 people in that facility showing symptoms of coronavirus.

The group’s information is difficult to verify independently: ABC made several attempts to contact the hospitals in Wuhan to ask about the reports, but received no response.

The video images seemed to support the reports, which showed large rows of patients with facial masks in a hospital in Wuhan, cramming the rooms while doctors went through to review them.

The analysis of Imperial College London last week suggested that the Wuhan outbreak could have led to more than 1,700 cases, a significantly higher figure than officially reported.

Experts in Hong Kong have suggested that the number could be closer to 1,300.

People who published in the group also expressed concern that the coronavirus had spread to the city of Nanjing in Jiangsu Province.

However, city officials said such statements were “rumors,” and no cases had been reported in any of the city’s hospitals.

Cover-up of SARS that generates fears

The Chinese authorities have endeavored to ensure that their response to the outbreak has been as transparent as possible, no doubt in the light of the violent reaction they faced in their handling of the SARS epidemic.

A man wearing a facial mask drags his luggage in front of a train station.

Photo:
With the concern about the growth of the virus, it has become more difficult to buy masks. (AP: Mark Schiefelbein)

Initially, the authorities tried to hide the real number of cases of the deadly disease, which caused the dismissal of the then Minister of Health of China and the Mayor of Beijing.

The epidemic saw more than 8,000 cases of SARS in 37 countries, resulting in 774 deaths.

At a daily press conference on Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China had been “acting with openness, transparency and a high sense of responsibility towards global health security.”

He said China was sharing information about the epidemic with the World Health Organization (WHO), which is holding an emergency meeting on the outbreak and its possible global consequences in Geneva on Wednesday at 7:00 pm local time (4: 00 am AEST Thursday).

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said new cases of coronaviruses would appear as China intensified monitoring.

WHO said an animal source seems to be the main source of this outbreak.

Cases of the virus have already been reported in the United States, Japan, South Korea and Thailand and Hong Kong, while a man in Brisbane was briefly isolated after returning from Wuhan with flu-like symptoms, but was subsequently released.

Hong Kong also reported 118 suspicious cases, according to the South China Morning Post, however, 88 of those people have been discharged.

Macao, another special administrative region of China, also announced its first confirmed case of the virus on Wednesday.

Topics:

diseases

disease Control,

diseases and disorders

respiratory diseases,

world politics,

Government and policy,

Health,

China,

Hong Kong,

macao

Asia

.

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