Coronavirus outbreak: China reports a decline in cases but could this be due to change in the counting method?
Chinese authorities might have recently adopted a different method to count the confirmed cases, even though the authorities have asked to take the decline claims with a grain of salt
China has reported a drop in the number of new infections for two straight days, with 2,015 new cases on Tuesday, the number of new cases has dropped by 1047 since February 9.
However, the number of cases in mainland China touched 44,653 and the death toll stands at 1,113 as of Tuesday. Though it may seem like things are looking up for the country, experts caution that these figures should be taken with a grain of salt.
Further, new infection rates in all regions excluding Hubei province -- the epicenter of the outbreak -- seem to be declining since February 3, according to the Chinese authorities. "Even if you include Hubei province and Wuhan, the national infection rate is declining,” China's National Health Commissions official He Qinghua said at a press conference on Tuesday morning.
Reports suggest that Chinese authorities have recently adopted a different method to count the confirmed cases, which may have something to do with the reported decline. Authorities are not counting patients who test positive but have no coronavirus symptoms. This is, however, unconfirmed at the moment.
What is more, China is not counting people with mild or no apparent symptoms, leading many experts to believe that the current figures are underreported.
Some patients showing milder symptoms have been turned away from Wuhan's hospitals in recent weeks because of the strain on resources, several people in the city told Reuters.
“With a focus on thousands of serious cases, mild or asymptomatic courses that possibly account for the bulk of the coronavirus infections might remain largely unrecognized, in particular during the influenza season,” Manuel Battegay and colleagues at the University of Basel in Switzerland said in a study published Friday.
Still, some experts predict that the virus could fizzle out and fall close to zero by February 23 after declining steadily. However, this could change if current cases are underreported.
“If nothing else occurs that would change the trend, this model does suggest the worst is over for new infections," Yi Zhou, a lecturer at Xian Jiaotong-Liverpool University.
Recently, another team predicts that the virus might show a decline in the coming weeks but not before infecting at least 500,000 people in Wuhan.
However, experts add that it is too early to make any predictions about numbers. “This is still a very intense disease outbreak in Wuhan and Hubei, and there are still great risks in practically all of the other provinces, so we will wait and see,” Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, told Bloomberg.