BEIJING – China’s official death toll from the coronavirus pandemic jumped sharply Friday as the hardest-hit city of Wuhan announced a major revision that added nearly 1,300 fatalities.
The new figures resulted from an in-depth review of deaths during a response that was chaotic in the early days. They raised the official toll in Wuhan by 50% to 3,869 deaths. While China has yet to update its national totals, the revised numbers push up China’s total to 4,632 deaths from a previously reported 3,342.
The higher numbers are not a surprise — it is virtually impossible to get an accurate count when health systems are overwhelmed at the height of a crisis — and they confirm suspicions that many more people died than the official figures had showed.
The undercount stemmed from several factors, according to a notification issued by Wuhan’s coronavirus response headquarters and published by the official Xinhua News Agency.
The reasons included the deaths of people at home because overwhelmed hospitals had no room for them, mistaken reporting by medical staff focused on saving lives, and deaths at a few medical institutions that weren’t linked to the epidemic information network, it said.
“As a result, belated, missed and mistaken reporting occurred,” Xinhua quoted an unidentified official from the city’s response headquarters as saying.
Deaths outside hospitals were not registered previously and some medical institutions reported cases late or not at all, the official said.
A group to review the numbers was established in late March. It looked at data from multiple sources including the city’s hospital and funeral service systems and collected information from fever clinics, temporary hospitals, quarantine sites, prisons and elderly care centers.