China censored people who spoke out about the coronavirus, but there’s reason to believe the country’s numbers are still trustworthy

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President Donald Trump with Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health Anthony Fauci, center, and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, speaks to reporters on the South Lawn, Tuesday, March 3, 2020, in Washington, as they arrive at the White House from a visit to the National Institutes of Health's Vaccine Research Center in Bethesda, Md. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

As the coronavirus has spread around the world, people have looked to data — case counts, death tolls, tallies of people tested — to help predict the outbreak’s trajectory, plan responses, and make policy decisions.
Because China was initially secretive during the SARS outbreak and censored some whistleblowers and citizen journalists as the new coronavirus spread, many people have wondered whether to trust the country’s numbers.
But here’s why China’s data may indeed be trustworthy, and how the country’s transparency compares to the US’s approach.
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As the Grand Princess cruise ship approached the California coast earlier this month, carrying at least 21 passengers with the coronavirus, President Donald Trump said he was hesitant to let them disembark — he said he didn’t “need to have the numbers double because of one ship.”

At the time, the number of coronavirus cases in the US hovered around 300. (In the weeks hence, that number has skyrocketed to more than 53,000.) The irony is that the US’ “numbers” of confirmed coronavirus cases have not always been easy to find and track. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has a coronavirus landing page that should, in theory, give an accurate snapshot of how many cases are in the US, which states or counties those patients are in, and how many tests have been administered.

But it doesn’t.

The CDC is no longer reporting how many people in the US have been tested for the coronavirus (the statistic has been repeatedly removed and re-added to the landing page). Currently, it says: “State and local public health departments are now testing and publicly reporting their cases. In the event of a discrepancy between CDC cases and cases reported by state and local public health officials, data reported by states should be considered the most up to date.”

In China, by comparison, the National Health Commission (NHC) has been aggregating all of its coronavirus information on its website and releasing predictable, daily updates since February 3.

China still has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world — about 81,500 — but the number of new cases reported per day has declined significantly. In the past two weeks, the country has reported less the 50 new coronavirus cases each day, suggesting China has gotten its outbreak under control.

Many people have not been inclined to trust the data coming out of China throughout this pandemic, given the Chinese Communist Party’s track record of censoring whistleblowers and citizen journalists. The country’s documented obfuscation and secrecy during the SARS pandemic 18 years ago doesn’t help, either — during that outbreak, China delayed informing the World Health Organization for months.

But this time around, there’s good evidence that we should be believe China’s numbers.

China’s past (and present) mistakes

In 2002 and 2003, as the SARS coronavirus spread worldwide, China did not report the outbreak to the WHO until four months after the first case. Government officials ordered healthcare workers to obfuscate …read more

Source:: Business Insider

      

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