China could be covering up true number of Coronavirus mortalities

Editor's note: This piece is based on the individual conjectures of the author and doesn't represent FXStreet's view. 

  • While China's Coronavirus (CoV) death toll rises to at least 80 from 56, China could be covering up the true picture to avoid a panic.
  • The WSJ and NYT reported on events which could raise questions over the real number of infections and contagion.
  • Risk-off flows weighing on equity futures and supporting the yen in Asia.

While China's Coronavirus (CoV) death toll rises to at least 80 from 56, with 2744 confirmed cases, there are some reports that allude to the possibility that China could be suppressing the full extent of CoV's lethality by keeping the mortality rate of the coronavirus artificially low. It may appear to some that there is an underlying incentive to underreport the true extent of the epidemic for as long as possible to avoid a panic.

Casting minds back to 2003, from an article written in the New York Times, it was reported that a Chinese doctor exposed the cover-up of China’s SARS outbreak. Dr. Jiang disclosed in a letter circulated to international news organizations that at least 100 people were being treated in Beijing hospitals for severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. At the time, the Chinese medical authorities were asserting that the entire nation had only a handful of cases of the disease. The revelation prompted China’s top leaders to acknowledge that they had provided false information about the epidemic. The health minister and the mayor of Beijing were removed from their posts.

This time around, in a news written by the Wall Street Journal, (WSJ), it is stated that instead of putting down Coronavirus as the cause of death for an unknown number of Wuhan casualties, China's coroners and hospitals merely ascribe some death to "viral pneumonia":

A 53-year-old fitness trainer died on Wednesday after checking into a hospital in Wuhan a little more than a week earlier, said his niece. His family had expected the death certificate to reflect the deadly coronavirus, because as his condition deteriorated, his doctors told his family he was suffering from an untreatable virus in his lungs. Instead, it recorded “severe pneumonia” as the cause of death, she said. The relatives of two other people who died in separate hospitals in Wuhan this week also described similar situations, saying the causes of death had been given as “viral pneumonia,”

– reported in the WSJ, which gives us an insight into how China could be keeping the mortality rate of the coronavirus artificially low to void a panic:

"There are likely to be many times more cases in Wuhan than officially confirmed,” said Neil Ferguson, a disease modeller at Imperial College London, estimating as many as 4,000 people may have been infected in Wuhan. 

If this was the case, the forecast of a UK expert, (Dr Jonathan Read), on the transmission and evolutionary dynamics of infectious diseases which was recently published in a paper and read, "our model predicts the number of infected people in Wuhan to be greater than 250,000 (prediction interval, 164,602 to 351,396)," could be seriously underestimated.  Dr Jonathan Read said an explosion in the number of cases is less than two weeks away. 

Market implications

US S&P 500 futures are falling more than 1 pct in Asian trade on worries about CoV and USD/JPY dropped below the 109 handle. 


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