California: Coronavirus cases in China were likely 37 times higher than that reported by the country's government in January 2020, according to a US-based think tank RAND.
Since the outbreak of a novel coronavirus, several governmental and non-governmental agencies around the world have accused China of opacity regarding the virus and for hiding information.
RAND has published a report after examining the role of commercial air travel in the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Think Tank has said that there is strong evidence to prove that China's reported COVID-19 caseload was undercounted by a factor of nearly 40.
"Many people have raised concerns about the accuracy of COVID-19 data from China. In this report, we present strong evidence that China's reported COVID-19 caseload was undercounted by a factor of nearly 40," the think tank wrote.
"Based on officially reported cases in China in January 2020, the odds of the novel coronavirus appearing by January 22, 2020, in Japan, Thailand, South Korea, the United States, and Taiwan--as it did--would have been minuscule," it noted.
From December 31, 2019, to January 22, 2020, China reported a daily average of 172 cases of COVID-19 among its residents. This number of confirmed cases was equivalent to just one per 8.2 million residents in the country per day.
If one goes by this trend, five countries--Japan, Thailand, South Korea, the United States, and Taiwan--which were most at risk of importing COVID-19 from China should have reported very few or nil cases as far fewer than 8.2 million passengers flew from China to the five countries over that 23-day period.
However, RAND said that the COVID-19 cases were already being reported in all five countries during this time.
"Just more than 1 million passengers flew from China to Japan and Thailand each, while slightly more than 750,000 flew to South Korea, 500,000 flew to the United States, and fewer than 400,000 flew to Taiwan. Thus, all of these passengers from China totalled fewer than 3.7 million, for an expected COVID-19 exportation rate of less than one case to all five of these countries combined," it said.
"However, COVID-19 cases were already being reported in all five countries during this time. This trend would be exceedingly unlikely given the low reported case count in China," it added.
If there were an average of 172 total cases per day in China through January 22, 2020, the odds of Japan and Taiwan importing even one case by that date would be 9 per cent each, noted the think tank. The odds of Japan, Thailand, South Korea, the United States, and Taiwan all reporting cases would be only one in 1.3 million.
"To reach those odds, the actual case rate in China would have needed to be about 37 times higher than what was officially reported on that date--that is, 18,700 total infectious cases, as opposed to just the 503 total cases that China reported having on January 22, 2020," the think tank said.
Countries like the US have accused China then and now for the under-reporting of coronavirus cases.
US President Donald Trump said that China's cover-up of the Wuhan virus allowed the disease to spread all over the world.
"Chinese officials ignored their reporting obligations to the World Health Organization and pressured the World Health Organization to mislead the world when the virus was first discovered by Chinese authorities. Countless lives have been taken, and profound economic hardship has been inflicted all around the globe," he said.