Coronavirus warning: Number of cases ‘greater’ than China wants world to believe

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, the Chairman of the Board of the UK Health Protection Agency claimed the number of cases of coronavirus in China could be “greater” than the figures released by the Chinese Government. Asked whether the data received from China is “reliable”, the Professor said: “The data from China has been released by the Government.

“WHO feels that that data is the best data they can get and they do have people working in China helping provide that information to Geneva.”

The Professor was then confronted on the fact that “the best data they can get” is not quite the same as whether it can be trusted.

And he was asked: “Is it possible that the numbers are greater than the Chinese are officially telling us?”

He replied: “Well, the numbers are always probably greater because what we don’t understand is the spectrum of the disease.

“We don’t understand how many infections are actually asymptomatic or have mild symptoms like a cold.

“So it’s very difficult at this point in town to really identify all cases.”

China has strongly defended its epidemic control measures and called on other nations not to go overboard in their responses.

Countries “can assess the epidemic situation in an objective, fair, calm and rational manner, respect authoritative and professional WHO recommendations, understand and support China’s epidemic control efforts,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chenying said at an online news conference.

“Fear is worse than any virus.”

The death toll from coronavirus rose to 565 on Thursday, with the number of confirmed cases rising to 28,273. Some 260 cases have been recorded outside China.

The UK’s Foreign Office has urged all British nationals to leave China.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock chaired a Cobra meeting on coronavirus on Wednesday afternoon, after saying the Government is “taking no chances” with British citizens at risk.

He told the BBC the advice to leave was a “science-led approach” based on the severity of the virus and its impact in China.

Meanwhile, NHS hospitals have been told to create “priority assessment pods” for patients with suspected coronavirus in an effort to prevent them mixing with other patients.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has appealed for more funds to help countries battle the spread of the disease as 5,400 people on two cruise ships in Asia have become quarantined.

In the port city of Yokohama, Japan, health workers said 20 people from the cruise ship Diamond Princess were confirmed with the virus.

They will be dropped off as the ship docks and transferred to nearby hospitals for further tests and treatment.

The 3,700 people on board faced a two-week quarantine in their cabins. The ship had 2,666 passengers and 1,045 crew members.

More tests are pending on 171 others who had symptoms or had contact with a man who was diagnosed with the virus after leaving a separate ship in Hong Kong.

The passengers and crew aboard the Hong Kong ship the World Dream are also being screened after three passengers on a previous voyage were diagnosed with the virus.

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The territory’s beleaguered leader, Carrie Lam, announced that two terminals – including one where the cruise ship is currently quarantined – will be shut down.

The director-general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has asked for 675 million to help countries address the expected spread of the virus.

He acknowledged that the sum is a lot, but told a news briefing that “it’s much less than the bill we will face if we do not invest in preparedness now.”

Tedros said that in the last 24 hours, the UN health agency has seen the biggest jump in cases since the start of the epidemic.

According to the latest figures early on Thursday, the number of confirmed cases jumped by 3,694 to 28,018.

Outside mainland China, at least 230 cases have been confirmed, including two fatalities, one in Hong Kong and another in the Philippines.

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