China begins to report asymptomatic coronavirus cases

Science & Health

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A line outside a Carrefour supermarket in Wuhan on March 22. Image from People.vgn via Caixin.

After days of mixed messages and increasing calls for transparency on asymptomatic coronavirus cases, China’s health authorities have agreed to start publishing more numbers. Reuters reports:

From April 1, the daily report of the National Health Commission will include details of such cases for the first time, Cháng Jìlè 常继乐, a commission official, told a briefing [in Chinese]. People in close contact with them face 14 days of medical observation.

Asymptomatic patients under observation numbered 1,541 by Monday [March 30], with 205 of the cases having come from overseas, the commission said separately [in Chinese].

The move is one of several to assuage public fears of a second wave of infection. Just today, Takeshi Kasai, regional director for the western Pacific at the World Health Organization, said that “the epidemic is far from over in Asia and the Pacific,” per the Guardian.

Other moves include:

More COVID-19 articles:

U.S. and China set aside coronavirus differences and pledge to work together” is the surprising headline of a SCMP article about a phone call between China’s National Health Commission minister Mǎ Xiǎowěi 马晓伟 and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar.

“China created a fail-safe system to track contagions. It failed.” That’s according to a New York Times article about China’s Contagious Disease National Direct Reporting System. An excerpt:

After doctors in Wuhan began treating clusters of patients stricken with a mysterious pneumonia in December, the reporting was supposed to have been automatic. Instead, hospitals deferred to local health officials who, over a political aversion to sharing bad news, withheld information about cases from the national reporting system — keeping Beijing in the dark and delaying the response.

The central health authorities first learned about the outbreak not from the reporting system but after unknown whistle-blowers leaked two internal documents online.

Even after Beijing got involved, local officials set narrow criteria for confirming cases, leaving out information that could have provided clues that the virus was spreading among humans.

—Lucas Niewenhuis