China might have reported only a fraction of their actual coronavirus cases says a joint report published in the Foreign Policy magazine and 100Reporters, a Washington-based nonprofit news organization.
The data, reportedly leaked from the Chinese military’s National University of Defense Technology to these organisations, covers hospital locations, place names corresponding to apartment compounds, hotels, supermarkets, railway stations, restaurants, and schools across the breadth of the country.
“While not fully comprehensive, the data is incredibly rich: There are more than 640,000 updates of information, covering at least 230 cities – in other words, 640,000 rows purporting to show the number of cases in a specific location at the time the data was gathered,” wrote 100Reporters.
Each update, it added, includes the latitude, longitude, and “confirmed” number of cases at the location, for dates ranging from early February to late April.
For locations in and around the center of the outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei province, the data also includes figures for deaths and for those who “recovered.”, according to the report.
The dataset, however, does not include the names of the individuals who contracted the disease, and both the organizations could not independently verify its authenticity.
“Foreign Policy and 100Reporters, who are co-publishing this piece, are not making the database publicly available for now for reasons of security, but are exploring ways to make the data available for researchers studying the spread of the coronavirus,” they said. The source of the leak, according to both news outlets, asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of sharing Chinese military data.
The Chinese military’s National University of Defense Technology used to publish a version of coronavirus cases in the country, which is currently offline.
China hasn’t issued an official reaction but Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian called for “impartial” reporting by foreign media outlets.
“We all on the media across the world to observe professional ethics, adhere to science and reason, stick to facts and truth, and commit to impartiality and balance, in order to foster a conducive atmosphere for winning the fight against Covid-19,” he wrote on Twitter.
Independent experts suggest that only further investigation can reveal the truth. “It’s entirely possible that it is location tracking data, and thus, one infected case could have more than one row (each row being a different location of the same case), or some being suspected cases, or family members also tracked. We need to learn more, but it’s good that Foreign Policy put it out,” said Dr Eric Feigl-Ding, epidemiologist and public health scientist at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The two organizations have said that more information in the public domain would benefit researchers to know more about the disease as well as “the ways Beijing manipulates its numbers”.
CHINA’S OFFICIAL DATA
Earlier last month, China increased its number of Covid-19 related deaths in Wuhan by 50 per cent on a single day, drawing scepticism about its official Covid-19 data.
The news outlets did not disclose if the leaked dataset has different numbers of deaths associated with Covid-19 in China.
China has officially reported 82,919 confirmed cases of Covid-19 with 4,633 deaths.