According to research by academics at Hong Kong University’s school of public health, published in the Lancet, China reported more than 55,000 cases by late February, but the true number from the first great wave is more likely more than 232,000 people.
The study says the upgraded figure is because the definitions of COVID-19 cases has changed from the outset of the virus.
“If the fifth version of the case definition had been applied throughout the outbreak with sufficient testing capacity, we estimated that by 20 February 2020, there would have been 232,000 … confirmed cases in China as opposed to the 55,508 confirmed cases reported,” the study said.
“In China, broadening the case definitions over time allowed a greater proportion of infections to be detected as cases,” the study added. “The true number of infections could still be higher than that currently estimated, considering the possibility of under-detection of some infections, particularly those that were mild and asymptomatic, even under the broadest case definitions.”
The coronavirus has killed nearly 190,000 people worldwide, according to a tally compiled by Johns Hopkins University from official government figures.
Blame for the epidemic has become a hot debate between Beijing and Washington.
A scientific consensus is still evolving, but the World Health Organization said the virus originated in bats in the wild. Sources have told Fox News that there is increasing confidence the naturally occurring virus was being studied in a Wuhan lab and escaped – as opposed to claims it originated instead in a nearby wet market.
China again reported no additional deaths from the coronavirus and just 10 new cases, six of them brought from outside the country.
Numbers in hospital have dropped to 959, only 63 of which are considered serious cases, while just over 1,000 are under isolation and monitoring as suspected cases or for having tested positive for the virus without showing any symptoms.
The epicenter of the global pandemic, the central city of Wuhan that accounted for the bulk of China’s cases and deaths, now has just 69 people in treatment for COVID-19, just two of them listed in serious condition.
China has reported a total of 4,632 deaths among 82,798 cases, although, as in many countries, those figures are considered to have been underreported. China also stands accused by the U.S. and others of initially minimizing the extent of the outbreak after it was first detected late last year.
As new confirmed cases drop close to zero, China has reopened many businesses and permitted middle and high school seniors preparing for exams to return to class. However, a ban on foreign arrivals and strict quarantine measures remain in place as China seeks to avoid an influx of new cases from abroad or a second wave of infections among those thought to have recovered or who have not come down sick but could still be spreading the virus.